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Blog by Fiona Colley: How we innovated through collaboration


It has been a pleasure to be part of the Capital Ambition Board over the last couple of years. During that time, we have achieved a lot – collaborating across London’s councils, the private sector and third sector to test the potential of innovative ideas and practises to improve public services and outcomes in London. The Board has overseen a wide portfolio of work and I am proud of our successes to make London a smarter, more efficiently run city.

Just over a year ago, for example, we approved three new projects testing the use of behavioural insights in some complex areas: decision making in children’s social care; communications around prevention and early help, including messaging around foster care recruitment; and immunisation rates of MMR – a potential ticking time bomb. The Behavioural Insights programme sets an ambitious goal to improve performance, reduce costs and stimulate innovation. Previous behavioural insight work the Board sponsored looked into the more classic areas of fees and charges - nudging individuals to repay housing benefit overpayments more quickly. The success of the trial meant that, if rolled out in one London borough only, it could result in £212,000 being recouped earlier per year with £4,500 less spent on debt recovery.

I am also proud to have overseen the progress of London Ventures, our main innovation programme delivered in partnership between London Councils and EY. The team have worked closely with partners across a whole range of sectors to develop and promote innovative services to augment local authorities’ capabilities.

I had the pleasure of chairing a fringe event at the LGA 2017 Conference in Birmingham titled, “’Good data’ – not big, not clever, just good.” It offered an excellent insight into how London Venture partners, Xantura and London Counter Fraud Hub, use data to improve public services – putting London at the forefront of new technologies. The power of predictive analytics is vast and we are seeing the impact of these approaches. 

Another highlight was opening the launch of Cornerstone’s ‘leading edge’ event in October 2017 which brought together important figures from the world of children’s social care, film and technology for a ground-breaking event at City Hall. It was a fantastic example of how effective innovation can be in enhancing council services with a demonstration Cornerstone’s virtual reality (VR) films used in educating foster carers and adopters. It emphasised the power of VR as an “empathy machine” giving insight into vulnerable children’s experiences that are difficult to comprehend for those who have not lived through it.

I am particularly proud of the work London Ventures has done with Southwark Council who are building predictive analytics capability to identify households most at risk of becoming homeless. The system, delivered by Xantura, identifies risk based on historical factors and data collated from local authority and other public services to target preventative measures. The aim is to have a substantial impact on the way services are delivered including improving the quality of timely, evidence-led interventions at a much earlier stage. The ambitious, win-win aim being to reduce the number of residents becoming homeless and therefore the demand for high cost housing services and temporary accommodation.

The London Ventures programme is entering an exciting new phase as it works to address local authorities’ challenges in the children and families space. The hackathon planned for June will bring together local authorities, innovators, and the 3rd sector to challenge, collaborate and then drive new ideas to deliver services more effectively.

I wish the new and returning members well and trust they will continue to drive the future of innovation in London to even greater success.

Fiona Colley is a former cabinet member at Southwark Council and was a member of the Capital Ambition Board until May 2018.