Shaping innovative services with the citizen at heart

13th February 2024

Civica’s Emily Douglin joins the debate on how to best deliver citizen-centric services that work

How do you take a local service that was designed FOR communities decades ago, no doubt by a group of very knowledgeable individuals in a room in a town hall somewhere, and flip it to being co-created and redesigned WITH communities?

This was one of the key questions up for debate at our recent Leadership Forum in Birmingham, where we brought together senior leaders from across local government and housing to debate the key challenges facing the sector.

Shaping innovative, citizen-centric services is a complex business. It involves engaging a wide range of stakeholders, harnessing technology and embracing collaborative approaches. By taking this proactive stance we will not only enhance the quality of life for residents but also foster resilience and sustainability within our communities.

Tangible success

Session host Adam Lent from independent think tank New Local gave us some brilliant examples of how local authorities are really taking community collaboration to the next level. One of which is Essex County Council and the charity it’s set up focused on drug and alcohol recovery – with services delivered by people in recovery themselves. The project is meeting the dual goals of both providing better health care and reducing demands on other services.

Meanwhile in Sussex, the local physiotherapy service has set up sessions to alleviate two issues; that care for people with muscular skeletal problems was not comprehensive enough and routine waiting lists were too long – up to 16 weeks. Alongside offering physio sessions, the project involved other groups and charities to help patients more holistically. The results speak for themselves, with 50% of people discharged, 30% introduced to community support and waiting lists reduced to 10 weeks.


Adam Lent,

Chief Executive,

New Local

I would call this social prescribing on steroids. The thing that connects these examples, among others, is giving the citizen the space to be heard and share their views. Let them set the agenda and say what happens to them.

It’s vital to think about services as co-delivered with the community. We need a new mindset – it’s not about efficiency and processes – it’s about the best outcomes.

Use the data better

The value of data for public services is indisputable, and it's vital we encourage local authorities to open up, share and better use data. This will help to design services around user needs; engage and empower citizens to build their communities, and drive efficiencies and public service transformation.

Ian Knowles,

Chief Executive,

West Lindsey District Council

We can better use the data from people who do contact the Council and fix services for the better. If we see patterns in this, for example people contacting us five times in one year about a single issue, let’s have a detailed, compassionate conversation with them to improve our services.

It’s vital we continue re-examining what citizen-centric means and bring ever-more empathy into the conversation. We must focus on what communities really want and need, both at an individual level and with wider view of a whole area.

A different mindset can produce the very best of services. And via this more integrated, agenda-less approach, we can make a real difference.

Emily Douglin is Sales Director, Local Government at Civica

Look out for more Civica Leadership Forum insights this Spring as we discuss the key issues further.

Find out more

Big Changes Ahead

This January, we brought together senior leaders from across local government and housing to debate the key GovTech challenges.

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