Let’s take an example...
I was attending a Revs & Bens conference a few weeks ago with a colleague. We were talking about the amount of effort that goes into providing high quality, up-to-date advice to welfare recipients. You don’t have to be in the Revs & Bens world to know that reform is on its way and the elephant in the room is Universal Credit. "How many of us local authorities have written content advising people about UC?" went the call in the room. All hands went up. "And who has written wide-ranging advice about all of the other parts of the welfare and benefits system, what it is, what it means and whether someone might be eligible - regardless of whether it's council administered or from DWP/HMRC etc?" All hands went up. And finally, "Who sees their budgets being cut, front-line advice resources being reduced and the need for smarter, digital solutions to fill the void?" Guess where the hands went?
What this needs is a centrally managed source of authoritative content covering all the aspects that are generic - ie where they are as useful to one local authority as the next. It’s not insubstantial - benefits advisors are typically very knowledgeable indeed and capturing that experience is not a small task. At the same time we need to recognise that there are aspects of the advice that are truly local - so can we build something that enables the local stuff to be added and then consolidated into something that everyone can reuse on their own websites?
I asked folk in the room whether they saw merit in the idea of co-funding its development. Back went the hands in the air. By clubbing together, we can build a single platform that appreciates the local subtleties but at the same time ensures that the parts of the puzzle that are universally useful to all are covered in a single hit.
For the purposes of this example, let's imagine that the combination of content and digital product development required to meet this challenge will cost £50k. Five Councils are needed to commit £10k for this - the business case for doing so is clear to see and would be well articulated. Ongoing costs each year for keeping the digital lights on combined with the effort to ensure the content remains bang up-to-date might cost in the order of £20k.
CC2i contacts all relevant directors/managers in the Revs/Bens and Customer Contact business areas in all relevant UK local authorities and outlines the case for their involvement. A virtual workshop is held to outline the details of the work, timescales etc and five LA's decide to commit after seeing the value in this approach. They invest £10k each in year one, and £4k per annum thereafter. For that, they get the value outlined in the business case along with a clearly defined and professionally run service.
Longer-term investment in the solution comes from broader takeup of the product to other LA's beyond the original investors. Any referrals from those original investors sees a reduction in their support and maintenance costs - further giving encouragement to them in sharing their approach with their peers across the UK.
From the developer's perspective (especially SME’s) it opens up a market that has been previously impenetrable. The nature of this approach lends itself to projects and products where the individual contributions from each participating organisation avoid the need for protracted procurement processes. For the investing organisations they see innovative products that truly meet their needs for a fraction of the cost of flying solo, as well as a model that sees ongoing innovation in the product increasing.