Over a 6-month period in early 2018, 10 contestants will tackle five tough real life challenges in councils across the country, spanning front line, financial, creative and leadership challenges. The second challenge took place in Staffordshire County Council.
On a spring day in the middle of March, ten contestants gathered at Stafford train station in eager anticipation ahead of the start of the second round of the 2018 Local Government Challenge. It was only a short walk through Victoria Park to the offices of Staffordshire County Council, where they would find out what was in store for them.
The teams received a warm welcome from Staffordshire’s Chief Executive, John Henderson, who described the county and the issues facing their residents. John then handed over to Karen Bryson, Assistant Director Public Health & Prevention, who outlined what the contestants would face.
They were told about the authority’s innovative approach to motivating older residents to support their own health and wellbeing whilst remaining independent. The task set involved coming up with proposals to encourage the use of digital technology as a tool in helping residents maintain their wellbeing. This involved finding ways to incentivize people to use digital platforms and overcome the barriers to accessing these, as well as accompanying marketing and branding messages.
Our two teams, Ambition and Vision, with their information packs in hand, moved to the rooms which would be their bases for the first day. It would be here that they would develop their initial strategies and ideas as to how they would take on the task that had been laid before them.
With their new captains in place, Swale BC’s Daniel Gooch (Ambition) and Richard James from Shropshire CC (Vision), the teams began to find out more – a briefing session with the council’s health and prevention team and then a roundtable discussion with internal and public health practitioners.
Ambition and Vison decided within their teams about how best to divide the workload and who was responsible for each section. It was also essential that they used their time effectively to feedback between sessions, gather their evidence and pull together their business cases, to be presented to the judging panel at the end of the 48-hour window.
A busy first day concluded with a networking dinner at the Swan Hotel, which was holding one of its locally famous steak nights. This gave the teams another opportunity to talk more and test out their ideas with council officers, including quizzing Karen Bryson and Staffordshire’s Deputy Leader Cllr Alan White, Director of Infrastructure, Economy & Skills Darryl Eyers, and with 2015 LG Challenge winner Jude Taylor.
The two teams emerged the next morning with a skip in their steps, despite the rain and having worked feverously late into the night on their proposals. Following breakfast, they marched on with their task of completing their business cases and sharpening their presentations by the looming deadlines.
Both Ambition and Vision were able to go out and spend time during the second day chatting with local residents at a nearby shopping mall, to test out their ideas and solutions with potential users.
That afternoon the respective teams lined up to deliver a 10 minute presentation on their proposals to the panel of judges, made up of Staffordshire Council’s Cllr Alan White, Darryl Eyers, Karen Bryson and the LGA’s Claire Holloway. They then were then each subjected to a cross-examination on their business plans, their perception of the issues surrounding the challenge set and their proposals to enhance older residents’ health and wellbeing.
Ambition took an unconventional approach by basing their proposal on a partnership with a bookmaker, on the premise of encouraging people to bet on the goals that they what to achieve people around their health and wellbeing. Additionally they made their presentation very interactive by using their ‘homemade cardboard app’ to demonstrate their ideas to the judges.
Vision took a more traditional approach in their presentation. Their focus was to make the council’s existing ‘Ministry of Wellbeing’ social enterprise the centre of excellence for future health solutions, through a partnership with the University and national organisations.
Both teams had visibly impressed the judges, but after careful deliberation Cllr White revealed that the innovative and interactive presentation style of Ambition had taken them past the winning post by a whisker.
Commenting on the work of the past two days, Deputy Leader Cllr White thanked the candidates and stated that he was sure “Staffordshire CC will probably be taking away some of those ideas and developing them up”. He also said he felt reassured that there were “officers as good as you in the business of supporting councillors like me delivering our political agenda.”
So with Team Ambition leaping into a 2-0 lead after the second round of this year’s Challenge, next stop is the South West where Vision will be looking to get onto the score sheet at Wiltshire Council.
The LGA would like to thank Staffordshire County Council for hosting an excellent challenge and for their ongoing support for the competition. Particular thanks goes to former LG Challenge winner Jude Taylor and her team Heather Haughton, Sharon Kaine and Paul Machin-Cullum for making it all happen.
If you are interested in being involved in the Local Government Challenge please email [email protected]