nesta – Systems change in local government: learning from COVID-19
Except from article – full piece at https://www.nesta.org.uk/project-updates/change-in-local-government-learning-from-covid-19/
Monday, 21 September 2020In Government innovation6 min read
City of York Council (CYC) are one of the six local authorities that took part in Nesta’s rapid research into how local government responded to COVID-19 in the first six months of the pandemic. Through this research, we explored what the crisis could teach us about the future of local government, and how we might hold on to the positive changes that emerged. In this piece, Jennie Cox, Senior Local Area Coordinator at CYC shares how COVID-19 has highlighted patterns of behaviours that lead to silo working and stifle collaboration between councils and citizens.
The COVID-19 pandemic has provided an opportunity for critical reflection and conversation within local government. During this time, I became attuned to several shifts in the system: first towards panic and chaos, then towards an increase in collaboration, innovative ideas and compassion, which was unfortunately followed by an inevitable shift back towards more familiar negative system processes and behaviours.
I worked through my initial dismay by taking the incredible learning opportunity to map what I had seen. I mapped the COVID-19 microsystem, made up of the behaviours, processes and approaches we had developed since the start of the crisis. This helped me to work out how, why and where this was sliding back into familiar silos and negative behaviours. My intention was to help us identify the conditions that enabled the ‘sweet spots’ of agile-working and citizen-centred approaches that characterised the beginning of our COVID-19 response and give us insight into the bigger question of how and why the wider system had historically become a landscape of silos, guarding resources and ‘interrogation of need’ which is a characteristic of a culture which distinguishes between deserving and undeserving citizens. This, I hope, will help us move forward by healing fractured relationships with partners and citizens and indicate where change might be needed to break negative patterns of behaviour.
I wrote these reflections based on the CYC Help Response Line, emergency planning and Local Area Coordination (LAC) cross-system work – which are areas I have been closest to. They are informed by my experiences as a citizen, front line worker and manager, and on the feedback and reflections of the LAC team. I am aware that a full system understanding would require bringing together many different perspectives – I hope this piece can start a wider conversation with partners and colleagues across the system about how we break these loops.
City of York Council’s COVID-19 Response Timeline