What’s the LOTI Model? Q&A with Director Eddie Copeland

If you’re reading this, you must have at least heard of LOTI. But do you know what LOTI really is and how it works? We get lots of questions about the LOTI model from city and national governments in the UK and abroad. Below, Eddie Copeland answers some of the most common questions.

What exactly is LOTI?

LOTI is London local government’s innovation team. More specifically, we’re a membership organisation run by 10 innovation specialists with a community encompassing technology, data and innovation colleagues working at the Greater London Authority (GLA), London Councils (LOTI’s host organisation) and 28 London boroughs. This 2min video below gives a good overview.

28 boroughs? Aren’t there 32 boroughs and also the City of London?

That’s right, but as a membership organisation, boroughs choose if and when to join. When LOTI began, we only had 15 boroughs. We’re now up to 28 (hopefully a good sign!) and our doors are open to any more boroughs that wish to join.

How would you describe LOTI’s main purpose?

We generally say LOTI exists to help London borough councils and the GLA work together to use innovation, data and technology to be high-performing organisations, improve services and tackle some of London’s biggest challenges. We’re here to make collaborative innovation as easy as possible.

Ok, but why does London need that?

There are two big reasons. First, major city issues like climate change and homelessness cut across individual borough council boundaries. If local government is to understand those issues and design good solutions, they have to work together. Second, these issues can’t be solved by only using the same tools and methods we’ve used in the past. So they have to innovate. Our view is that councils can innovate much faster and at lower cost and risk if they work together on experiments and share their knowledge. Yet collaborating can be extremely hard. LOTI exists to make it simple, strategic and effective.

Which roles in local government do you work with? 

Our core audience is borough Chief Digital, Information and Innovation Officers (CDIOs) and their technology, digital, data and innovation teams. However, we also work with colleagues from service and policy areas like environment, social care and housing, as well as with Chief Executives and elected members. At the GLA, our main contact is Theo Blackwell, London’s Chief Digital Officer.

Who funds you?

Our work is predominantly funded by our members. Each borough pays £30,000 a year (rising to £33,000 from FY 25/26 due to inflation), the GLA pays £100,000 a year, as does our host organisation London Councils. That gives us a core income of around £1m a year. We’ve additionally been fortunate to secure several substantial grants from the GLA, national government and other bodies to fund specific projects like Get Online London.

How does LOTI operate and what do you focus on?

LOTI works in two main ways. The first we refer to as “Building London’s Innovation Foundations”. This is the work we do with our core audience of borough technology, digital, data and innovation teams. The focus is on helping them make best use of People, Tech, Data and Innovation methods to be high-performing organisations. 

Diagram that shows LOTI's areas of work under four titles. Title 1 is People. We work on Access to Talent, Partnerships, Innovation Culture and Knowledge and Skills. Title 2 is Tech. We work on Emerging Tech, Cyber Security, Procurement and Smart Cities. Title 3 is Data. We work on Data Projects, Information Governance, Data Ethics and Data Foundations. Title 4 is Innovation Methods. We'll work on Behavioural Science, Design Thinking, Open Innovation and Research and Foresight.

The second way we act is as an “innovation partner”. Essentially, we help the teams leading the charge on some of London’s biggest issues like climate change, social care, homelessness and digital exclusion use innovative tools and methods to develop new solutions. Again, we look at the People, Tech, Data and Methods aspects of any given issue.

Can you give some practical examples?

Sure, I’ll start with the innovation foundations.

On a People front, we help boroughs recruit by working with expert headhunters, crowdsourcing job descriptions and promoting roles on our jobs board. We also run innovation strategy sessions with councils’ leadership teams and run several communities of practice to connect staff working in similar roles (e.g. data professionals). 

On Tech, we support boroughs to test new methods of cyber security, create guidance on using emerging tech like GenAI tools, and work with techUK to arrange early market engagement sessions with suppliers. 

On Data, we design, project manage and handle all the information governance and technology aspects of pan-London data projects. 

On innovation methods, we provide service design capabilities and run webinars on a wide range of methods from behavioural science to open innovation.

When it comes to acting as an innovation partner, we ran a major design sprint to come up with new ideas for reaching London’s net zero goals (see video below) and are currently helping the GLA think through how data can support the capital’s energy goals. In social care we’ve funded two pilots that look at novel ways of improving care. On homelessness, we’ve brought together London’s rough sleeping data for the first time so better interventions can be designed. And on Digital Exclusion we’ve worked with Good Things Foundation to develop and scale Get Online London – the first pan-London digital inclusion service.

There’s a load more we offer – for more info see our value proposition for boroughs.

But I thought you only did digital stuff?

That’s a common misunderstanding. When LOTI was first established, our remit was to focus on ‘fixing the plumbing’ on digital, tech and data issues. So tech was – and very much remains – a massive part of our work. 

But it makes little sense to focus on technology in isolation. Doing that leads so many digital transformation projects to fail because they end up bolting on new tech to old processes, which can only ever deliver superficial change. (Incidentally, I think this is also what’s wrong with so much of the national conversation about the future of local government digital. My view: you can’t change technology without also changing people, data and process – see my blog on that subject).

There’s no bit of software, for example, that magically solves the pressure on adult social care. So we can’t just have a chat about social care IT. By contrast, brilliant technologies combined with new skills for social workers, joined up information and reformed service models can deliver it. That’s why LOTI focuses on all four elements – People, Tech, Data and Methods – in every project we conduct. 

Do all boroughs take part in every project?

No. We tend to find clusters of boroughs (a minimum of three) who are interested in a given topic, say, testing a new approach to cyber security. We then work with them to design solutions that could be scaled to any other council. It’s rare for us to insist everyone does the same thing: a notable exception would be the rules around data sharing where it only works if everyone follows the same approach.

How do you pick projects?

When we started LOTI, we tried to run it like a democracy with everyone suggesting ideas and voting on the most popular. But it became obvious that that approach resulted in a hodge-podge of strategically incoherent projects. Instead, the LOTI team now spends a huge amount of time listening to our members’ problems and ideas through hundreds of meetings and workshops. Where we spot common pain points and see a way collaboration can add value, we propose ideas back to our members, and we decide on what to take forward during our monthly meeting with the CDIOs of each borough.

What roles do you have in the LOTI team?

LOTI started with a team of just 3 people. We now have ten. You can find out who they are and what they do on our website. On any given project we work with colleagues from across the LOTI community as well as with some brilliant freelancers and partner organisations. 

What’s LOTI’s biggest challenge?

LOTI has one main existential risk. The day boroughs decide that collaborating is more hassle than it’s worth, we’ll be finished. So we have to ensure our members see and feel the benefits of working with their peers. The hard part about that is that every borough has different interests, priorities and is at a different state of maturity on any given topic. It can be challenging to get everyone aligned. We therefore think of LOTI as being like a buffet: we have to offer enough interest to enough of our members enough of the time. 

How’s LOTI governed?

Our formal governance is via London Councils’ Executive Committee, where there are political leads for innovation in each of the main parties. LOTI also reports to two London borough Chief Executives who have the roles of Innovation Lead and co-Lead within CELC – the group of London borough CEOs. On a more day-to-day basis, decisions about what we do and how we do it are made in our monthly sessions with the main representatives of each borough. Ultimately, there’s a much more real form of governance: do our members see enough value in what we do to renew their membership each year?

What are your proudest achievements?

Way more than I can fit in one blog! But here are three. Firstly, that LOTI still exists (that was not guaranteed) and is helping boroughs. A recent evaluation by the GLA Economics Team confirmed we deliver value, save boroughs money and are making collaboration projects happen that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. At a project level, Get Online London is a brilliant example of how we can create genuinely pan-London solutions to big problems. I’m also really proud of our recent work to join together London’s rough sleeping data. I’ve spent the last decade advocating for the creation of Offices of Data Analytics. LOTI performs that role for London and it’s amazing to get to the point where we can marshall data from across the capital to tackle an issue as important as homelessness.

Could the LOTI model work elsewhere? What advice would you give on replicating it?

I absolutely believe that regional bodies like LOTI can work anywhere. Moreover, they’re really needed if you agree with our hypothesis that collaboration and innovation are vital. In terms of lessons learned for anyone wishing to replicate the model, I’d say: 

  • It has to be someone’s full-time job to make collaboration happen. Informal groupings of peers can have great conversations, but tend to struggle to actually do things together. It takes an enormous amount of work to coordinate different organisations to get things done at scale. That has to be someone’s job.
  • Start small and develop organically. LOTI’s quite a different beast from the organisation that started almost five years ago. There was no way of knowing in advance how it would evolve; we’ve adapted based on listening to our members and evolving bit by bit. Any other region would need to do the same to find the right fit for their needs.
  • It’s vital that councils pay for it. It means those who are part of the community really believe in the value of collaboration and have skin in the game. London boroughs own LOTI – it’s their community – and that really matters. 
  • Pick projects strategically. It doesn’t work if you just ask for ideas and implement the most popular ones. 
  • Work in the open. We spend a huge amount of time connecting our borough members to other boroughs who have already done the thing they wish to do. Working in the open, sharing successes and failures, helps prevent needless duplication. 
  • Build a brand: The vibrant pink LOTI brand has become well known and helps us open doors to national government, local decision makers and other partners, helping to get things done.

Any closing thoughts?

All our local government members face incredible challenges, but they also have incredible strengths. It’s my team’s immense privilege to be able to help them help each other. I said at LOTI’s launch event that “collaboration is really hard, but it’s worth it”. I believe that even more today and I’m proud of the role LOTI plays in making it possible in London. If you’d like further information or advice on the LOTI model, please feel free to contact us.

LOTI Evaluation

Eddie Copeland
26 March 2024 ·
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