Overcoming the barriers to code sharing between councils

Croydon and three other councils are starting a project in January to understand the uses and limitations of sharing a Drupal 8 publishing platform.

At the end of October, Croydon Council won £75,000 from MHCLG’s Local Digital Fund to explore code sharing between councils. Sorry for the radio silence since then. We’ve been working through local procurement regs and launching our new website in beta, both of which have been keeping us very busy! 

I’m happy to say we’re on schedule. As part of the bid we needed to hire additional user research, product and tech expertise. They’ll be in place early January, and we’ll be able to begin.  

Sharing makes sense 

Frequent flyers will remember Croydon Council is re-using Brighton & Hove City Council’s publishing platform. 

We’re both working in Drupal 8, and it made sense for us to team up and not reinvent the wheel. We reckon it’s saved Croydon months of work, and it’ll save future councils even more time. Since then we’ve welcomed Bracknell Forest Council and Oxford City Council to the fold and we’re in conversation with a few others. We think this is a gift that keeps on giving. 

Change of tack

After some discussion with MHCLG, we’re making a slight change to the project scope. In our bid we talked about a Discovery project to explore the barriers of code sharing of any kind. We and MHCLG decided that was too much to bite off in 3 months. Instead we’re focusing on the barriers councils face in joining a shared Drupal project like ours. Some considerations we’ve found so far are (in no particular order):  

  • overcoming cultural barriers to sharing in councils – that we’re “giving work away”, and that code made elsewhere isn’t necessarily as good as our own 
  • being “fair” to all councils by recognising the heavy lifting the founders have done, and sharing workload over time 
  • developing a roadmap that maximises collaboration, while allowing each council to develop for itself as needed 
  • getting the code and theme to a place where it can be easily shared  
  • understanding how our sharing scales from 4 councils to many 
  • working out if this a “builder’s only club” or if councils who don’t have devs can join 

There are solutions to all these issues, and we’ll have a better idea of them by the end of the project. The work starts in January and we’ll finish in mid-March. 

Want to help us?

Do you want to re-build your council website, or have you launched a new one recently? Either way, we’d like to talk to you – it doesn’t matter if you’re into sharing code or not. If you’d like to help, please post below or email will.callaghan@croydon.gov.uk. 

I’d also like to thank everyone who’s helped us get this far. Hope you all have a great holiday and are ready for another productive year! We’re aiming for bigger things in 2020. 

1 thought on “Overcoming the barriers to code sharing between councils”

Mr Richard Thomas 15th January 2020 at 3:17 pm

Excellent stuff Will and sounds exciting and rewarding. Look forward to seeing the outcomes…Richard

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