Local government innovation works: an evaluation of the London Office of Technology and Innovation

Chief Digital Officer for London
6 min readJan 16, 2024

City Hall’s evaluation of the work of the London Office of Technology and Innovation (LOTI) has just been published. The study shows how local government can innovate successfully together if it departs from traditional ways of doing things.

We hope our findings will be useful not just for the local government community, but also to those examining the often vexed question of central-local government innovation models.

Background

LOTI inspires and facilitates better digital collaboration in London local government: acting as the ‘expert middleware’ needed to make innovation between boroughs and other partners a reality. It’s creation was driven by the new Chief Digital Officer for London and London Councils in 2017.

LOTI is funded through a unique partnership between the GLA, London Councils (where it is based) and individual boroughs, all of whom recognised the need for a dedicated team to focus solely on local government innovation.

LOTI uses an outcomes-based methodology — an extension of the Design Council’s double diamond approach — for all projects. That means they start with the end in mind, focusing on what partners would like to be different in the world because they acted.

When setting out on projects that expect to have a significant technology component, LOTI aims to head off the risk of ignoring the hidden enablers of a great solution by building in an explicit prompt to consider the non-technical aspects of the problems and solutions.

The evaluation

GLA City Intelligence evaluated LOTI from the perspective of its members via a survey of data and digital professionals and semi-structured interviews. Seven activities were assessed for their value for money.

The study found:

  1. LOTI has substantially improved digital collaboration across London, receiving overwhelmingly positive feedback from both the survey and interviews with LOTI members.
  2. LOTI’s team of (only) 9 has an impact far greater than its size. Over the past 4 years it has delivered 60+ major digital, data and technology projects with boroughs (find out more about LOTI’s live projects here and below), ranging from homelessness and digital inclusion, to new business models in adult social care and improvements to data-sharing. LOTI supports the innovation capacity of councils through new products and services, co-designed guidance, professional networks, a digital apprenticeship hub and innovation days with senior leaders from delivery teams.
  3. Members feel supported by LOTI staff and ultimately LOTI helps them ‘get things done’. Collaboration is challenging and members feel that the cross-borough work co-ordinated by LOTI would not happen otherwise. However, challenges to collaboration remain; there is a lack of alignment around goals, different organisational mindsets and silo-working in local government is hard to overcome.
  4. We also found that LOTI helps boroughs save time and money. Recruitment support from LOTI is associated with cost savings for member boroughs of at least £300k compared to market rates for the same type of support, and the Data Sharing Agreements project has potentially delivered £1.4m in savings compared to individual agreements between all parties. Other projects appear to be cost effective in certain plausible scenarios, for example to provide net benefit to the public, the Attack Surface Mapping (cyber security) pilot would only need to have avoided one cyber-attack (costing ≥£242k).
  5. LOTI works with a range of private partners, such as Faculty AI and Social Finance (data), Multiverse and Founder & Coders (talent), Public (GovTech) and has a partnership with industry body Tech UK. LOTI’s innovation days for adult social care and NetZero have built-in opportunities for scale-ups to show ‘the art of the possible’ to senior leaders.
  6. Finally, LOTI is delivered at low cost: now with 27 member boroughs each contributing £30,000 in annual fees. GLA and London Councils also each contribute £100,000 per year. The GLA recently agreed to fund LOTI for a further three years.

A comprehensive social cost benefit analysis would consider the resulting outcomes of these activities for Londoners to determine their value for money. The social and economic benefits to Londoners could be far higher than the financial savings to boroughs, as illustrated by it’s work over 2023:

Notable delivery in 2023 includes:

Homelesseness data — The Rough Sleeping Insights Project, to bring together for the first time GLA, council housing data and voluntary sector data in one data service to make rough sleeping rare, brief and non-recurrent. The data currently used by the tool is sourced from a number of systems operated by stakeholders in the rough sleeping ecosystem. This includes CHAIN, InForm, and data held in borough Homelessness Case Level Collection (H-CLIC) returns. An MVP solution has been developed with a pilot group of four boroughs, Camden, Hillingdon, Lambeth and Westminster, and their hostel providers. LOTI is now working on a ‘phase 2’ of the project. This focuses on rolling out the Strategic Insights Tool to all London boroughs and a further selection of homelessness service providers.

A new Digital inclusion service -Get Online London (with Good Things Foundation, funded by the GLA), a digital inclusion service where Londoners can get access to basic skills, a data allowance or a refurbished device in one place. This year 3450 laptops and mobiles have been distributed to Londoners, 45k SIMs and 10K learners accessing basic digital skills. LOTI’s work to make the London Recovery aim of ‘Digital Access for All by 2025’ led to the partnership with Good Things Foundation and a London pilot for their model, which is now being rolled out nationally.

Pan London Data-Sharing Agreements: LOTI’s work on information governance with the Metropolitan Police, and councils has resulted in a streamlined process for sharing data, where once city-wide agreements could take many months (or even years) to negotiate, they now can be completed swiftly by developing a new sign-off template process with core teams of borough IG leads.

New models for adult social care: LOTI hosts innovation days with ASC leadership to support radical new approaches to meeting needs. Work in social care led to a £200k innovation fund to incentivise, select and pilot the most promising ideas for new service models. For example: (A) Hackney and Southwark are working in partnership with Equal Care Co-op and Clapton Commons to promote better independent living by piloting a “Care
commons” — a strength-based approach underpinned by empowering residents, local community organisations, care workers, care recipients and family carers in Clapton with the skills and knowledge required to recruit care workers, develop care plans and build and resource home care teams through asset-based community development. (B) Hounslow, and Brent in partnership with Social Finance are develop a prototype multi-agency data platform that equips frontline workers with better information about the residents in their care. The project aims to develop and test a prototype digital solution that builds on a similar tool,
called “Family Context” used in Children’s services.

To tackle digital talent shortages in council teams LOTI’s new Apprentice Hub is a networking and professional development space for apprentices working in digital, data, technology and innovation. It offers apprentices exclusive talks with industry speakers; workshops and trainings in the most relevant and exciting skills and issues in digital, data and innovation — including data ethics and digital inclusion; Career support from LOTI’s
recruiters to help you find your next steps after your apprenticeship; Visits to other LOTI members to see innovative public sector projects in action; Regular meetups to network with your peers across London Local Government. LOTI has recently launched an apprenticeship pipeline with Mulitverse, based on work undertaken by Westminster council.

LOTI produces a range of timely and valuable resources for boroughs ranging from guidance on smart city deployment, data ethics, use of generative AI. LOTI’s team bootstrapped London first ever Data Week with the Alan Turing Institute and others in July — holding over 30 events in the city for data users and the public to discuss the use of city data
to improve services.

Read the full evaluation here

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Chief Digital Officer for London

@LDN_CDO & Data for London Board @MayorofLondon using data to support a fairer, safer and greener city for everyone​