NOUN – a strong desire to do or to achieve something, typically requiring determination and hard work.

Since taking on the role of Local Government CDO in Wales I’ve been asked to speak at lots of events.  And there’s always lots of questions about what I see as the most important things we need to focus on in Wales. And to be honest, there are lots of smarter people than me who can analyse, understand and communicate the priorities for us to focus on as a nation.  And we will do it.  Of course we will, because if Wales has anything in abundance it’s ambition.

Ambition has gone on a strange journey, from being something most of us have – the desire to do or be better to being a bit of a dirty word linked with celebrity and fame. Now it’s time to reclaim it and put it back to its real meaning – achieving something that’s usually hard work but ultimately rewarding.

For one thing, Welsh Local Government is awash with ambition. I haven’t spoken to a single officer or elected member who doesn’t want their citizens to have better experiences, access to better services and be able to lead better lives (and I have spoken to a lot of people!). Each piece of work, each project, each decision should move us towards an improved state. 

This is where the ambition for my team comes in. We all share that local gov ambition, after all, we are citizens too.  We also understand that we can use our specific set of skills, experience and all-important networks to help make that happen. We just need to make sure we are going in the right direction, and we take people with us or more importantly people take us with them.

We spent the early part of this year doing extensive research to help us build a picture of where we needed to focus our efforts and where we could help ambitions to be achieved. 

We have learnt so much in a short few months, and a few of the important things were that:

  • we need to do more to help people understand that digital isn’t just about buying technology.
  • carrying out more user research will give us a richer picture – even if we think we know what our users will say, we should ask them anyway.
  • digital shouldn’t be a label given to a team in organisations, it should be part of how we work, how we do business, how we live.
  • we need to find a sustainable opportunity to marry-up talent and potential with the relevant training and skills.
  • local gov people are the world’s natural problem solvers – they do it every day, so how can we use that to deliver better services?
  • the sheer range of services being delivered is immense, and the commitment to improvement, efficiency and value is felt keenly.
  • we’re not good at telling people about all the great things that local authorities do every single day – it’s time to start telling the story.
  • local authorities sit on a wealth of amazing data about our communities, but how can we make better use of it to intervene earlier and anticipate problems before they occur?
  • we can share so much more of what we do across all 22 local authorities – sharing is caring.
  • we share the public sector space with some great digital people across Welsh Gov, Health and wider.
  • there’s amazing value in strengthening our relationships with community partners and the third sector – and together we can achieve so much more.

Obviously, we’ve learnt loads more and will keep learning. From what we now know, we can confidently take our strategy and backlog of work forward. We know we are doing the right things, we know we can help make a difference to peoples’ lives and we won’t be ashamed of being ambitious. Because in the words of the magnificent Salvador Dali,

“Intelligence without ambition is a bird without wings”

Salvador Dali

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