Agile Collective has been the lead technical partner for the LocalGov Drupal distribution project since January 2020, driving the technical development of the distribution forward through MHCLG-funded Discovery, Alpha and Beta stages. We finished up the last of ten sprints for the Beta in mid-October 2021, so it’s time to take a look back at our LocalGov Drupal journey so far.
What is LocalGov Drupal?
LocalGov Drupal is the publishing platform for local government in the UK – created by councils, for councils, it’s a distribution of Drupal, the leading enterprise-scale open source content management system (CMS). The project really started to make progress when MHCLG (as was) agreed to back the Discovery phase from the Local Digital Fund, aligned with the goals of the Local Digital Declaration.
This opened up the opportunity to better understand and explore the opportunity for scaling up the code-sharing that had already started to happen informally between Brighton & Hove Council and Croydon Council, though the initial ideas and motivations that underpin the project date back further.
Our involvement began with our appointment as the lead technical partner for a 6-week Discovery phase, which kicked off in January 2020. As well as technical development and strategy – including auditing and improving the existing codebase, establishing technical standards, and recommending the distribution pathway – we also took the lead on establishing a governance framework for council participation, including a Memorandum of Understanding, co-created with our long-time trusted advisor Andrew Katz.
Will Callaghan, Product Lead for LocalGov Drupal, produced an excellent Discovery Report detailing the impressive amount of work that the four partner councils (Brighton & Hove, Croydon, Bracknell Forest and Oxford City Council), Agile Collective, and research partner dxw, managed to deliver together in such a compressed period.
Following a successful bid for Alpha funding by Will and Croydon Council, and with four more councils joining our growing LocalGov Drupal community, we embarked on a rolling series of 10 sprints from the beginning of May to mid-October 2020 focused on refactoring code, improving the core features of the product, and making it easier for new councils to start using the distribution. Two more councils came on board during the Alpha, including Waltham Forest and our client, Lambeth Council, who we subsequently helped transition to LocalGov Drupal in late 2020.
Once again, Will produced a great report on the Alpha project, showcasing the product development progress achieved, the establishment of the Product and Technical Groups to steer different aspects of the work, challenges that remained to be addressed to smooth the path to adoption of LocalGov Drupal for new councils, and the creation of a public roadmap for the product.
Which brings us to the Beta. With increased funding from MHCLG and a new host council, Cumbria, we kicked off our work on the Beta in April 2021 and delivered 10 sprints running from May through to October.
With an expanded development team on our side and a renewed focus on the future governance and sustainability of the distribution – including exploring the applicability of sociocratic principles and decision-making – we worked alongside Will (still Product Lead, but now working for Cumbria Council) and a growing number of new councils and other Drupal agencies that joined the community on a regular basis as the Beta unfolded.
Our Technical / Delivery Lead for LocalGov Drupal, Finn, has been producing detailed Sprint notes all the way through the Beta (and before). His final notes for Sprint 10 capture the growing maturity of the distribution from both technical and governance perspectives, the developing understanding of council needs explored by our research partner Telltale Research, and the excitement we all feel as the profile and credibility of LocalGov Drupal continues to rise with councils, with the wider Drupal community – DrupalCon Europe 2021 featured four LocalGov Drupal-related sessions – and internationally.
A recent US study from the Beeck Center at Georgetown University highlighted LocalGov Drupal as an example of emerging best practice in open working and collaborative models for delivering open source software for government.
With the Beta finished, the future looks bright for LocalGov Drupal. We are thrilled to have been able to play a part in the story so far, particularly as it gives us the opportunity to contribute to making an impact at scale: improving access to essential information and services for citizens around the UK, while substantially reducing website development costs and increasing the speed of deployment for councils.
Not only is the product in great shape with 20 councils now participating, there’s a clear and compelling business case for more councils to adopt LocalGov Drupal. And the more councils that get involved, the better LocalGov Drupal becomes – it’s a virtuous circle, and everyone wins.
Whether you're looking for a digital agency partner to assist your Council's transition to LocalGov Drupal, or just considering your options and wanting to find out more, we'd love to hear from you.