LOTI Director: ‘It’s time we had a local authority sandbox’

The director of the London Office of Technology and Innovation (LOTI) has called for a Local Authority Sandbox to be set up in response to the many pressures facing local councils that are preventing them from innovating as radically as they need to. 

“Imagine the typical director of adult social care, desperately trying to keep the liUntitled-2ghts on while meeting spiralling demand for their service with a diminishing pool of carers. When in the day do we imagine they’ll find the time, resources and staff capacity to spin up a new, more efficient service model to transition to?” Eddie Copeland wrote in a recent blog post

He has proposed setting up a Local Authority Sandbox–  a physical space or ‘pop-up’ – hosted by different councils in turn, where new technologies and service innovations can be tested in key local government service areas. 

The concept combines service design, technology, open innovation and theatre to find solutions to challenges facing local government. 

"My pitch is that LOTI and willing partners could trial an LAS in London, where we have a highly motivated and talented group of council colleagues wanting to find new solutions – but a similar approach might benefit the whole sector."

How it will work

LOTI's trial of the concept would involve engaging with member boroughs to identify key service challenges, mapping current processes, and then creating a physical mock-up where innovators would be invited to see a performance of the current service model. 

This would be followed by an open call for innovations and then a design and testing phase of two to 12 weeks. Once refined, local authority leads would be invited to a 'show and tell' in which both the old and the new technologies and service models are performed to show the difference and the impact of the new solutions. 

A compelling case for councils

Copeland explained that for councils, it de-risks the trialling of new technologies and service models, enables the testing of a more innovative and expansive range of solutions at speed, and encourages investment from the private sector to help fund trials of innovative tools. 

Crucially, it gives local authority staff the chance to experience the solutions themselves: “I’m a firm believer that for innovation to be compelling, it needs to be experiential," Copeland said.

For central government, the concept would provide "a tangible means to spur and scale the kind of service innovation all major parties say they want to see across the sector," he added.

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