In the zone

Every year at the LGA’s annual conference, the Innovation Zone features some of the most creative work going on in councils to improve the lives of our local communities.

‘Taking the plunge’ was the theme of this year’s zone, with more than 40 presentations and interactive sessions from councils and other organisations that have not been afraid to try new approaches or promote brave and innovative ideas that have paid off.

Sponsored by Newton, the zone’s three-day programme was packed, highlighting not only the innovations, but how councils can develop positive, proactive cultures that support and encourage ideas, testing, and learning from their experiences.

“Presentations were from those not afraid to try new approaches or promote brave ideas that have paid off

For example, Darlington City Council worked with the community interest company Blue Cabin to help Harewood Hill Lodge, a short break service for disabled children, become a creative care home – by training staff to be Arts Award advisers and act as mentors for the young people.

The children have the opportunity to develop creatively, explore the arts, share their achievements and gain a recognised qualification. This also helped the staff to improve their relationships with the young people and contributed to an improvement of their Ofsted judgement to ‘outstanding’.

Elsewhere in the zone, East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service and partners Social Engine described how they have tried to reduce accidental house fires – using behavioural insights, or ‘nudge’ theory. They have targeted younger people in Brighton, using humour and a light touch, to understand why people behave the way do and offering incentives to change behaviour. The latter include food takeaway vouchers to discourage young people from cooking at home after a night out.

Our guests from Zagreb, Croatia, shared the story of the The Ilica Project: Q’ART, which is breathing life into urban spaces of the city. The previously derelict high street, which faced issues of anti-social behaviour, now hosts a plethora of entertaining cultural events for locals and visitors to enjoy, ranging from music and literature to dance, film and art.

One of the most well attended sessions explored councillors’ personal experiences on the topic of ‘The Second Shift: women, parents and caring responsibilities in local government’. This was an honest and interactive discussion session for councillors and officers of all genders who explored the challenges of combining caring responsibilities with the pressure of life in local government. It also introduced the LGA toolkit, ‘Twenty-first century councils: enabling and supporting women, parents and carers to stand and serve in local government’, sparking practical ideas and actions to take back to various authorities.

And in Birmingham, the council and its partner agencies have come together to take a ‘whole system’ approach to reimagining and redesigning how they deliver joined-up support for older people. They want the city to be a great place in which to grow old, while improving service quality and productivity and achieving measurable financial savings. So they are testing different combinations of operational processes and staffing structures to help older people achieve their maximum level of independence as quickly as possible.

These examples formed just part of our varied programme. Other subjects covered ranged from lessons from Leeds for recycling ‘on the go’, to Bracknell Forest’s partnership with Dogs for Good, which is bringing animal-assisted intervention into mainstream social care provision (pictured above).

The Innovation Zone was also the venue for the announcement of the winner of the 10th Local Government Challenge, and the launch of our new improvement tool for councils, the Transformation and Innovation Exchange.

I hope you found something in the zone to inspire the work you do in your local area, and look forward to finding out about your council’s innovative practice at next year’s annual conference in Harrogate, from 30 June to 2 July 2020.

Presentations from the Innovation Zone are being uploaded to, and the LGA’s website has a whole section dedicated to council good practice case studies, see


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