Last week the LocalGov Digital Makers (LGMakers) event took place with around 40 people from 25 councils taking part.
The event follows the Makers Hack Day in June and was hosted by Guildford Borough Council. During the day Makers Project Team pilot projects were showcased and, more importantly, a discussion about collaborative working took place.
The day confirmed there is a growing desire among those working for local governments to do things differently. This is heartening, as given the diminishing funds councils have at their disposal, increasingly local authorities have to stop doing things or find alternative ways of doing them.
With Makers Project Teams, by using existing tools such as GitHub, Trello, Slack, Twitter and creating a few more (information about the pilot projects will be released in the next couple of weeks) council digital teams would share their work, where common aims and local user needs.
Rather than working independently on building a similar thing, or worse, spending taxpayers money on buying the same product in each council, teams would work together, not through a formal shared service but through the sharing of their skills using digital tools.
Is this unworkable? Perhaps, but that wasn't the impression of many at the event and if an initial group of makers can start to build things together for others to use then this would not only prove the case, it would also start to provide a catalogue of re-usable digital services.
Is is unscalable? Let's consider that if it happens. We've seen a lot of talk about a Local Government Digital Service (LGDS) in the past couple of years and you can read LocalGov Digital's response to the recent proposals from the Society of IT Managers about this, and perhaps some pooled administration resource might be needed in the future to help manage the tools that Makers Project Teams use.
What if someone takes and doesn't give back? Generally Makers Project Teams would be making things that they'd be doing anyway, just together. Also, if someone takes 100 things and only gives 1 back, that's still 1 more thing. To start with anyway, everyone has to give as there's nothing to take.
This can-do mentality, along with a Change Academy could be the start of LGDS, not advising or criticising but concentrating on getting stuff done different and one attendee went as far as suggesting this:
Great day spent with the @LGMakers crowd at Guildford CC yesterday, looks like we might really have the beginning of a #localGDS movement.
— Dominic Jones (@oddjones) September 12, 2014