The publishing platform created by councils, for councils.

Sharing Software Throughout The UK: A Case Study Of LocalGov Drupal

LocalGov Drupal was recently used a case study by a US foundation investigating software sharing.

The report, by the Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation, concluded that, "New software cooperatives would do well to model themselves on LocalGov Drupal. Their approach to funding, governance, growth, and user research encompasses the best of modern software development and the best of bureaucracy."

You can read the full report by Waldo Jaquith, The Creation of an Intergovernmental Software Cooperative: A case study of LocalGov Drupal, on the Beeck Center website. 

Executive Summary from the report

Each of the United Kingdom’s local governments (“councils”) need a website to provide services to their residents. Councils’ needs are broadly similar, but they each build or procure their own individual websites.

An alumni of the United Kingdom’s Government Digital Service, Will Callaghan, worked on improvements to a series of council websites and, as part of a larger team, identified an opportunity for councils to collaboratively build shared software. In 2019, they successfully replicated customisations made to one council’s Drupal content management to another council’s website, with the two councils agreeing to collaborate on future improvements, drawing from a shared, customized code base.

The project, then named LocalGov Drupal, grew further thanks to a grant from the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government. The ministry had recently created a grant program, the Local Digital Fund, to help councils collaboratively build high-quality, open source software centered on user needs. Using the first round of funding, they hired a small team to explore the needs of other councils.

Further funding helped them to pay for software development work. LocalGov Drupal expanded to three councils, and then kept growing.

Today, LocalGov Drupal counts 16 councils around the United Kingdom as members, and they’re actively developing new functionality to expand their network.

Notable methods employed by LocalGov Drupal include employing Agile software development practices, outsourcing core development, working in the open, focusing on a single shared need, distributing decision
making, and leveraging grant funding. Those looking to replicate the success of LocalGov Drupal should seek to kickstart their work with gated grant funding, focus on project governance, have a visionary project leader,
and begin with just two co-op members.

First published in October 2021 by the Beeck Center For Social Impact + Innovation.
Based within Georgetown University, the Beeck Center brings together students, expert practitioners, and extended networks to work on projects that solve real-world challenges using data, design, and technology as instruments for equitable societal change.