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Written by Emma McGowan, Head of Digital Transformation at Camden Council and Ben Unsworth, Head of Digital at Buckinghamshire County Council

We’re in an unprecedented civic emergency. The coronavirus is rapidly changing our daily lives across the UK, affecting everyone and particularly, the most vulnerable members of our communities.

To respond we need not only to stand up our core emergency planning, but develop new approaches that respond to challenges that are unique to this crisis in form or scale.

As local authorities and health organisations respond, we’re recognising that we have to go beyond our current service delivery remit, with a growing need to pivot resources and respond quickly. How do we deliver on core emergency planning while also developing new approaches that respond to unique challenges in form and scale?

“Everything we do before a pandemic will seem alarmist. Everything we do after will seem inadequate” - Mike Leavitt, Former Secretary, Department of Health and Human Services

To respond to the nature of this crisis, we need to invest in a new approach to addressing these challenges in a way that is truly built to scale. This is about bringing together councils, organisations and communities to provide help during an emergency in an unbureaucratic way, working together and limiting duplication.

Building a support directory

Early on in our efforts to respond to the rapid changes and increased demand in light of coronavirus, we recognised the need to build a simple front door for coronavirus-related help.

Building on the code FutureGov developed with Buckinghamshire Council to develop the “find support near you” tool for adult social care as well as their coronavirus support directory, Camden Council’s front door for coronavirus guidance and support, and lessons learned from the work of NHS colleagues, we’ve begun prototyping a simple tool which will allow people to search and find services and help near them.

This shared directory of local services brings together insight and data from digital customer experience and voluntary community services across boroughs. Through a single online portal, citizens will be able to access the information they need with signposting to voluntary community services, connect people to local support, whether that be food packages, medical help, mental health support, pet care and much more. Ultimately, reducing demand on council services and providing people with the help they need.

The code is fully open-source and shared on Github: take a look.

Applying open data principles to building the directory, this platform is available and open for reuse by the rest of local public services. While specific to the current coronavirus-related needs, it can be easily adapted to all services in a local area.

Join the coalition

Over the past two weeks, we’ve been bringing together a catalyst response team of policy, design, digital, service delivery, public health, voluntary community services and more, supported by London-wide partners, such as the Greater London Authority, London Councils and London Office of Technology and Innovation, and nationally by MHCLG.

Taking a mission approach to set up a basis for collective action, we’re asking our network to join the coalition. Working together, owning this together, we can look at the most urgent challenges and coordinate an agile response to new ways of addressing shared problems during an emergency unlike any other.

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This directory is fully open source. Recognising our shared rapid timescales, if you’d like to talk about any of this work or how we can support you, please get in touch.

Join us

If you’d like to talk about any of this work or how we can support you, get in touch:

Join the project