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“In these times of turmoil and transition, we can see the green shoots of an alternative future. We can see evolutions in how parts of society, government, public services, institutions and the economy are organising. Our human capacity to adapt is evident in the movements, institutions, leaders and places that are showing us the way… It may be fragile and emergent, but a better and more collaborative future is here already.”

Manifesto for a Collaborative Society, January 2020

Today marks the publication of new learning reports from our work with the Upstream Collaborative — twenty pioneering councils that are leading the transition to a new model of local government. Over the past year, Collaborate and Nesta have been working closely with the group of practitioners from these local authorities who are exploring new ways to create the conditions for people and places to thrive. Their work is varied and diverse, and yet we believe it shares core DNA that represents the emergence of a new operating model for local government.

These councils are moving attention and resources upstream of service delivery and experimenting with different ways to address the complex challenges their communities face. They are adopting new collaborative ways of working that acknowledge the complexity and interconnectedness of social issues and the people and organisations that aim to tackle them, and build on the strengths and resources of the community and local partners.

The ‘New Operating Models’ framework set out in the introductory paper describes what this new thinking and practice in local government looks like — the mindset, the purpose, the values, principles, behaviours, capabilities and infrastructure that enable it. The paper explores the imperative for innovation within and by local government and shares examples of pioneering practice.

Collaborate and Nesta have also co-published two supporting papers that explore how to move new operating models from the margins to the mainstream of practice, and how new approaches to risk can support this transition; and Nesta has published additional supporting papers exploring new approaches to learning and measurement, learning from the response to Covid-19 and why Asset-Based Community Development is an enabler of new operating models (see below).

As the Collaborate team know from so much of our work with local partners, as well as the work of the twenty pioneering Upstream Collaborative councils, local government is at an exciting moment of transition. We believe their work represents the practical reimagining of public services and relationships between citizens and state, and that this has deep implications for how we think about the role of government more broadly. We think the New Operating Models paper and the supporting reports deepen our collective understanding of this change, and provide more evidence for the shift in public services that we outlined in our Collaborative Society Manifesto in January.

We hope that the New Operating Models paper and the rest of the Handbook will be useful to changemakers at all levels in supporting that transition, and nurturing this new collaborative future for local government and public services.

About the New Operating Models Handbook

During the programme, participants in the Upstream Collaborative formed workgroups, to articulate a common problem they experience with the way things are now and work through what a different, more enabling approach would look like, while exploring their own practice to identify examples of these new approaches. Their ideas and experiences have been captured in the New Operating Models Handbook, a set of six learning products: