Back in March, somewhere between the first and second LG challenge, (and what now feels like a very long time ago) I wrote a blog called the inbetweeners.

Once the competition was over and back in the relative safety of my day job I think I’d forgotten what an intense experience the challenges were – and re-reading this first blog has reminded me just how exhausting, challenging and enjoyable a 6 months I had.

As the application process for the LGA challenge 2017 begins to pick up speed I thought I’d share a few nuggets of wisdom (apologies for the image) with prospective applicants.

If you’re not sure about entering, or you don’t think you have the time to write the application. My first nugget is JUST DO IT. I almost never submitted my application, and I would have missed out on so much opportunity if I hadn’t.  Applicants in 2016 came from a really wide range of jobs, experience and backgrounds, and any one of the candidates could have won it in the end – so remember you have nothing to lose.

The assessment day that follows the application process is a good opportunity to get an early feel for what the actual challenges will be like. And in what will be a recurring nugget of wisdom – Talk to everyone – you never know who you’ll meet again, or how they might be able to help you. It was speaking to Jude Taylor (the LG Challenge Winner in 2015) at the assessment day that really made my competitive side kick in for the first time. She spoke of amazing opportunities that had come from winning, and I wanted in.

If after the assessment day you are lucky enough to become one of the final ten, then you are in for a bit of a 6 month roller coaster. It’s absolutely brilliant. As learning experiences go I don’t think it can be compared to anything I’ve ever encountered. You will stay in places you have never visited before (probably in weird hotels.) You will have exposure to leaders and chief execs from all sorts of different backgrounds. And you will share the highs and lows with 9 other talented contestants. The challenges are complex – so my nuggets of wisdom for them are (in no particular order): Think big – there’s no point playing safe. Be Brave – you might as well take a gamble. Talk to everyone – here it is again.  Don’t forget to eat lunch – you will definitely forget to eat lunch.

After the final challenge, the four finalists are announced. In many ways this is when the most hectic part of the process begins and you only have a very short time to build a proposal. As sods law dictates the final will probably coincide with your busiest time at work. But sods law aside, the final is really fun, the task is to get delegates at the LG conference (made up of chief execs and leaders) to vote for your proposal, this is a chance to pick holes in your ideas, and all the practice you have had in talking to everyone in the previous challenges means this bit should be easy. You are joined by fellow contestants at this stage and I was really lucky to get Emily and Luke – whose combined charm offensive meant that the conference delegates stood no chance.

Whilst all this is going on, the prospect of a final presentation looms. My proposal was to eradicate Child Sexual Exploitation and I tried to strike a balance between an emotive and factual presentation in a topic I feel really passionately about. My nuggets of wisdom for this stage would be to choose something you care about and PRACTICE. It was a final presentation run through with Amy the night before, and Luke and Emily just before going into the judging room that really helped steady my nerves.

After all the finalists have presented, and the judges have considered, there is an LG challenge ceremony. It’s one last time for all the contestants to get together and wait for the winner to be announced. I was delighted and lucky enough to be the name in the golden envelope. And you also get a trophy!

The final evening is a bit of a blur, but in the months since winning I have started to try and turn my proposal into a real project. Winning has given me exposure that it would have taken years to replicate. And I have tried to make the most of this by pencilling in regular meetings with senior colleagues, including our chief exec. The opportunity to use 10k creatively is exciting and opens doors that wouldn’t have been available to me before. As an example, early next year I plan on heading to the states to visit an anti-exploitation project and try and bring invaluable learning back with me.

So if you are reading this blog, I hope I have swayed you to give it a go, if you manage to get through to the final stages – then good luck. Hopefully I’ll see you at next year’s conference!





With some trepidation – allow me to welcome you to my first ever blog.

There are many reasons why I don’t blog, and they are the same reasons that mean you are probably more likely to win the lottery than spot an update from me on facebook.

Short of spending hours in therapy to get to the bottom of it– the reasons are probably a healthy dose of cynicism and an inbuilt reluctance towards self publicising. It would also be dreadful if the internet ran out of space on the day I decided to post my first cat video.

All that being said, I really understand the value social media brings to communication and engagement and that amongst all the online ‘noise’ there are some really important conversations taking place . And so in the spirit of trying new things….here goes.

On the 4th Feb the local government challenge started with a bang. Amy Newham has already blogged about the highs and lows of Highcliffe. From team names, to team leaders to a hundred different issues to consider, the challenge was relentless, but equally brilliant. As competitors we have no choice but to think on our feet, and probably more importantly be ourselves – as when the pressure builds and the cameras are rolling there isn’t really any hiding space.

I loved the first challenge, as team leader I was disappointed not to win, but was really pleased with how well we worked together and every member of the team played a massive part. We came up with some really innovative proposals to achieve a bold vision for the future, but more importantly the vision was underlined by a co-production strategy for engaging and empowering members and residents to actually make it happen.

But this blog isn’t about the first challenge, it’s about that no-man land between now and the next event in Derbyshire. I guess the big question to consider is how can you prepare for an event that could be about anything. I think the answer is that you probably can’t really – but there are few things I’ve tried to do.  After each challenge you are given feedback on your team and individual performance. We had some really good feedback from Gary at Christchurch council – who was playing the role of an undercover Karen Brady at the last challenge – and the key for next time is going to be showing  improvement on this. I imagine this will be easier said than done, as once the clock is ticking on the challenge, all the best laid plans are easily forgotten.

Time has flown between challenges and the day job has kicked back in. Which has meant I haven’t been able to spend much time reflecting on the previous challenge or plan for the new one. I will, before the next challenge starts, have googled all I can about Derbyshire Council; in particular the political set up, as one of the most interesting things for me from the last challenge was encountering a Conservative Cabinet for the first time.

I also enjoyed the first challenge so much that I’ve started to have conversations about it at work and began to pick the brains of some of the more senior managers to see if I can make the most of their experience.  This will hopefully be invaluable as the challenges get more and more intense. Along the same lines and to improve my view of self publicising I’ve started to tweet about some issues that are important to me.

The next one is just a week away and I’m sure it’ll be equally as exhausting, challenging and enjoyable as the last one. I expect there will be a few surprises and it’ll be interesting to see how well we all continue to work together as the pressure builds. I’ll also definitely make sure I bring some cash in case the bar on the train home doesn’t accept cards.