10 hacks for working with local authorities, if you're a democratic business

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written by

Grace Crabtree

Jan 9, 2022

Over the last half-decade, political support and policy development within local government has opened up new opportunities for democratic business to become part of how we address local and regional economic challenges in UK communities. 

These ‘hacks’ are based on a deep dive at our residential campus in mid-Devon, Selgars Mill, combining the shared knowledge and experience of democratic businesses who are working with local government around the UK, from Islington to Birmingham to Manchester to Preston.

You can download the infographic guide here.

1. Introduce the policy team and officers to their ‘opposite’ at another council to build their confidence and knowledge, especially if you, or others in the sector, have worked successfully elsewhere. Also suggest they join a relevant network.

2. Capture data and offer a strong narrative about your impact. There is limited competition within most responses to local government tenders in terms of price and quality so social value frameworks are where democratic businesses can be distinctive.

3. Consider building a consortium of local democratic businesses that could create an effective partnership bid when there are new tender opportunities for local government. It’s a good way of demonstrating how our sector works.

4. Use inspiration from national and international movements, but remember to introduce your ideas within the local context. There are a lot of councils who’ll say, ‘that’s only possible in Preston or Mondragon’.

5. Ask what procurement platforms your local government uses and check if it’s necessary to register, as it can take a significant time to apply. Also ask others in the democratic business sector about their recommendations.

6. Explicitly frame your role within the respective local government’s priorities and demonstrate how it also meets their objectives beyond employment and business, from climate emergency, to wellbeing, to economic regeneration.

7. Understand your local political context. Different policy frameworks can be perceived as more or less political in different regions. Even where they’ve been adopted by the elected members, this doesn't mean there's support from the officers.

8. Design for quick wins and the long game. There's pressure on local government to create immediate benefits for to the local community. It’s your role to show the necessity for both short and long-term approaches to building local culture and infrastructure to support the sector.

9. Make sure your case studies are relevant, still active, and show local economic benefit. Local government will always ask for examples of ‘successes’. 

10. Build an understanding that you share the same client: the local community.