Using executive education to make positive change to my local council |

Using executive education to make positive change to my local council

By Laura L

Updated Updated

After serving as a paratrooper in the British Army, Lewis began working for his local council in Barking and Dagenham, one of the most poverty-stricken boroughs in the UK.  

Since 2011, Lewis has moved through the ranks from CCTV monitoring officer to lead commissioner for innovation and personalisation, and has invested in his potential by taking courses in executive education at Imperial College Business School.  

The programmes – ‘Innovation: A Design Thinking Approach’ and ‘Digital Transformation Strategy’ – gave Lewis a toolkit to modernise and digitally transform his local council, and to address the region’s levels of deprivation through more innovative solutions.  

Creative thinking within local government frameworks 

In his role as lead commissioner for innovation and personalisation, Lewis is responsible for the design and implementation of services to improve life for residents in a data-informed way.  

Working within a local council means that local challenges are usually driven by the wider national and international implications, which can often be unpredictable. 

Add resource and financial challenges to that and there becomes a real need for creative thinking and innovation to develop more optimised processes and service efficiencies, according to Lewis. 

“That’s where digital transformation fits in really well,” Lewis said, “understanding how we optimally design services to deliver best value for public money. That’s what my business education has helped me to do.”  

He said: “If you look at private sector incentives, companies are trying to attract customers and increase engagement. In local government, people don’t aspire to interact with their council day to day. 

“We want our ‘customers’ to feel like they’re empowered to self-serve, self-manage and retain their independence so that our resources are freed up for the people who need them the most. It’s the complete opposite.” 

An opportunity to learn from industry experts 

With business education from Imperial College, Lewis has been able to learn from best practices within the private sector and consider how he can emulate some of the innovative digital transformation happening there.  

In fact, he was one of a few students working in the public sector where, according to Lewis, 80-90 percent of his cohort were professionals from private sector industries. 

“I want to know how we can use technology to better support people to live more healthy and independent lives. What the big tech players are doing now is getting consumers excited about taking ownership of their own health through the likes of wearable devices,” he said. 

“The technology is already there. We just need to find ways to harness the ideas behind the big investments that tech companies are making. Ultimately, change is needed within the public sector if we want to prevent people from experiencing lower healthy life expectancies, and the associated loss of independence, all of which comes at a greater cost to the public purse.”  

As a student, Lewis has been able to engage with other ambitious professionals across a range of sectors and industries to share experiences, insights, and best practice. “That has really emphasised the importance of the public sector to not operate in a bubble,” he said, “but to collaborate with and learn from other sectors in a meaningful way to navigate the immense challenges we’re facing. 

“Understanding the equivalent challenges within the corporate world and trying to apply the solutions to a local government context has been one of the highlights of my business education and something I’ve hugely benefited from.” 

The tools for immediate change 

Lewis feels that the education he received at Imperial College was tailored to be organisationally relevant to all students across the programme.  

As well as the industry contacts Lewis made during his studies at Imperial College, the course curriculum enabled him to make immediate changes to his work thanks to the frameworks, techniques and tools provided.  

Lewis said: “The digital transformation audit toolkit was one of the first features of the course that allowed me to test my organisation for where we currently were digitally and to set a baseline. From very early on, I was able to identify actionable challenges and gain momentum in moving forward.  

“There was a lot of low-hanging fruit that I hadn’t previously identified but that we could exploit. People within the organisation started to feel a tangible difference straight away. We’re delivering services now that are markedly different from how they were prior to my studies at Imperial College.” 

One of Lewis’ priorities is ensuring preventative support is provided to the service user before they are contacted by a council service. “If any of our services are contingent on a person coming into direct contact with somebody from the health and social care system, we’ve missed an opportunity for years in how that person could have otherwise been helped earlier on,” he said. 

"I think we need to be thinking a lot more innovatively about how to ensure that people are aware of the services that they can access and that we make use of all the various ways people can do that. 

“From the programmes I’ve studied, I’ve learned some of the helpful tools available around digital marketing and how to find opportunities to make things easier for our residents. One of the big successes we’ve had since my studies is configuring a cross-functional structure that takes a person-centred approach.” 

From leaving school to lead commissioner 

Lewis left school when he was 16 years old. Without A-levels, he joined the military for five-and-a-half years. “I’ve never really had any academic credentials until now,” said Lewis. “So the opportunity to go back and study, especially somewhere as prestigious as Imperial College Business School, is amazing.  

“The calibre of academic teaching is of such high quality and being able to learn among students from some of the biggest organisations in the world has been hugely valuable.” 

After completing his business education at Imperial College, Lewis remains dedicated to ensuring that local government is helping to make people’s lives better and challenging the less favourable perceptions about local councils. 

This article was originally published in . It was last updated in

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