Following the brown-rice revolt last week, known in closer quarters as the ‘October-revolution’, I have aimed at a more social-democratic approach to cultural transformation. Home-brewing is the radical new familial idea now, inspired in large part during dinner with Dave Maidment and Dylan Roberts of Leeds City Council recently at the Gartner Public Sector Forum in Ascot, UK. Aside from the illuminating discussion about Yorkshire breweries, we also spoke (in fact mostly) about a lot of pretty exciting things that are going on in Leeds.
Most people that operate in local government will certainly be familiar with the pressure to do more with less – more services, better quality, faster and cheaper, delivered in the context of demanding regulation, transparency requirements, lower budget and higher costs. Leeds City Council is no exception; in fact such challenges are comparatively more intense compared to some other cities. Clearly evident to me though, is the inspiring information vision, leadership and energy that Dylan (as Chief Officer-ICT) and Dave (as Head of IT Strategy & Commissioning) bring to the significant challenge of transforming Leeds into a truly smart, digital city. Crucial in delivering this vision, is facilitating the mind-shift in the role of information: from a supporting actor employed for service provision and management to the lead player in facilitating the right outcomes.
The creativity that this pace-layered thinking has unleashed, looks well beyond the ‘more-with less’ challenge – it creates a culture of innovation that encourages collaboration across public, private and community boundaries with focus on the end-result. One great example is the Leeds Artcrawl, which aims to promote public engagement with art and culture, leading to data gathering and analysis which ultimately enables crowd-sourced creation of a public art strategy for Leeds. Open data as a way of achieving transparency and being ultimately accountable to its citizens is enabled through the Leeds Data Mill, listed in The Observer earlier this year as one of ‘Britain’s 50 New Radicals’. Provision of data sets to citizens, community groups and commercial organizations creates new opportunities for collaboration and innovation in ways that I have not often seen. These are just two of the many projects that are on-going. In a modern organization, the tone-from-the-top will only bring about real transformative change if it is also accompanied by the same tone-at-the-top. I’m therefore very optimistic and encouraged by what is happening in Leeds and look forward to seeing lots more of it.
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