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Connected Places – collection prospectus

Improving the quality of life in our communities

Authors and contributors: Diana Rebaza, Martin Ferguson, Jos Creese

Connected Places – collection prospectus

At a place-based level, public services have for many years been inherently fragmented. Local public services modelling and planning can no longer be confined to single or even groupings of public sector organisations with a ‘producer-led’ mentality; they need to start with people, locations, and communities.

This briefing is to introduce our new ‘Connected Places’ collection. The focus will be on how technology and data can be used to make more and better connections to enable and empower Socitm’s members to play their role in supporting and transforming the resilience of communities, public service, organisations, and the people that they serve in their communities.


We are excited to present this briefing that sets out a prospectus for the rationale, scope and key elements of our planned Socitm Connected Places research collection. Building on feedback from Socitm members and wide-reaching research, the collection will address what has been described as a ‘critical juncture for public services’. Our unique perspective will be driven by the role that digital – the culture, processes, business models and technologies of the internet era – can play in connecting people, their communities, and shaping better outcomes for all.

What are Connected Places?

The journey to ‘smart cities’ began in the early 1970s. Now, the focus is shifting to ‘connected places’ that are not constrained by vague definitions as to what constitutes ‘smart’ and not limited by urban boundaries.

At a place-based level, public services have for many years been inherently fragmented, and individual services, performance measurement, and resource allocation have been narrowly defined within traditional boundaries.

Local public services modelling and planning can no longer be confined to single or even groupings of public sector organisations with a ‘producer-led’ mentality; they need to start with people, locations, and communities. They cannot be defined and delivered in traditional vertical ‘silos’ dictated by remote public service organisations.

That is why we need to co-create connected places with people for the people and with communities that give places their meaning, harnessing technologies and data to connect them in ways that were previously impossible. This is the key to improving economic, environmental and social wellbeing in an area, transforming public services, and the basis of policy development to support them.

Truly connected places take a ‘whole system’ approach to public service design and delivery at a local level, where interrelated relational services work together with integrated plans, prioritisation, policies and resources.

Connecting local public services
Connecting local public services (click to open in new tab)

Purpose and audience for this briefing

As we develop content and resources, the focus will be on how digital, data and technology (DDaT) can be used to make more and better connections to enable and empower Socitm’s members to play their role in supporting and transforming the resilience of people, communities, organisations and places they serve.

This briefing will be of interest to politicians, private sector leaders, senior policy makers, local digital leaders, technology practitioners, service specific leaders across the wider public sector.


The collection will focus on how we can harness digital – cultures, infrastructures, technologies, and data – to support and invigorate vibrant and thriving communities. It will aim to disentangle the ‘digital’ from the purely ‘technological’ impacts and demonstrate how whole systems ways of working can create better and more connected places for people, services and communities.

Crucially, the collection will be designed to support and enable Socitm members to play a key strategic and leadership role in shaping and creating connected places.

Connected Places model (click to open in new tab)

The collection will be built on a series of ten foundational topics which in turn are informed by the 12 government digitalisation outcomes:

  1. Imagining connected places: A systemic model that brings together better integrated, efficient and more effective health, care, welfare, emergency, crime prevention and education services, combined with good and affordable housing, modern premises, and connected transport; a culture that fosters entrepreneurship, investment and innovation, attracts, develops and retains talent, creates meaningful jobs and enterprise, reduces unemployment and equips people with the skills and confidence to remain resilient and adaptable in a changing work environment.  
  2. Health and well-being: How connected places can address the challenges of modern healthcare delivery that often lie outside clinical activity in hospitals – community support, mental health, self-administered care, education, the environment and lifestyle improvements – taking a whole person and whole system perspective. 
  3. Community resilience: In a digital age, the concept of community resilience has changed. Today, it encompasses a wide range of issues, such as global supply chains, energy, water and food security, cyber risk, the safety of services and people, and contingency planning to mitigate unforeseen incidents of any type. 
  4. Travel and mobility: Digital solutions will not only improve the flow and integration of transport services but will enable optimisation of travel connections and preferences (Mobility as a Service) and virtual connectivity obviating the need to travel.  
  5. Democratic renewal and Information risk: Technology brings with it the opportunity to reinvigorate participation in local democracy and citizen engagement, while mis-information, and data risks are growing exponentially. New technologies, such as AI, data analytics, social media and intelligent news feeds are all sources of risk that can impact stability, resilience, equality and democracy in connected places. 
  6. Economy and business: Connected places encourage the extension of digital enterprise within communities, with their ability to harness skills, data, systems and services that drive the local economy.  
  7. Environment, sustainability, and energy: A focus on the wider challenges, not just on the clever technology that makes business and government more efficient and effective. This means safe and secure energy, less waste and reduced challenges of pollution and congestion, carefully planning for housing and economic growth, and nurturing an environment we can enjoy for work and for leisure.
  8. Education, skills, and jobs: The role of connected places in addressing the growing gap between supply of jobs and demand for digital skills, generating innovations in work, inclusion, recruitment, development and retention practices. 
  9. Community Engagement: How to inspire feedback and open conversation to ensure people’s needs are at the forefront of local government’s priorities. Social media, crowdfunding and other forms of interaction can motivate digital inclusion and help to align individual and wider civic priorities. 
  10. Data: How connecting and analysing geospatial and longitudinal data sets can generate new insights to break the ‘public policy impasse’ over tackling deep-seated socio-economic problems and inequalities – the wicked issues with no simple problems. 

Our approach

The style of this collection will be different from the past, both the way in which organisations traditionally publish and promulgate research, with a general focus on single topics – specific service areas, use of data, individual technologies, and case studies but also, in the way that we have structured our previous research.

Our approach prioritises the way in which these topics interrelate in a geographic area. We are going to produce a living resource, an organic collection of materials, bringing together communities of best practice, views, analyses, and evidence that demonstrates the value of integration in a successful ‘connected place’.

The project structure will be iterative, building, on-call foundations and developing and growing content. It will comprise 4 phases:


  • Identify and communicate with potential partners, key stakeholders, and external resources
  • Discover and curate relevant resources and links
  • Define the structure of the Connected Places briefing
  • Draft prospectus/briefing paper


  • Design the structure of the collection – cross referenced to: Socitm Policy themes, Local Digitalisation Outcomes and Digital Trends
  • Review the content of each of the main component against a revised structure


  • Develop the content around the defined structure
  • Revise, refine content and sign off


  • Launch the Collection  
  • Publicity and promotion  
Agile methodology graph (click to open in new tab)


The project governance will comprise 4 layers designed to steer, manage and deliver the project: 

  • Steering Layer – For advice and direction for the project
  • Directing Layer – Prioritisation, resourcing and decision-making 
  • Managing Layer – Managing the overall project delivery
  • Performing Layer – Blended team of researchers, data analysts, designers, and communication specialists to design and deliver the collection
Project governance (click to open in new tab)


The Connected Places collection is to provide Socitm members with a multi-faceted collection of resources that covers:

  • Prospectus: Connected Places overview of the project
  • Briefings: Expert analysis, case studies and opinions focusing on the latest and most topical issues affecting place-based public sector ICT
  • Reports: Deliver easily digestible reports and guides provide you with clear and concise information and practical guidance
  • Policy papers: Explore emerging topics of interest and examples of how they are being addressed in our wider policy themes
  • External resources: Papers and reports from the academic community, think tanks, etc
  • Media and magazine materials: Blogs, podcasts, magazines published to coincide with each national conference, major events that focus on aspects of the connected place agenda

Key stakeholders and areas of focus

Bradford University Digital ethics, inclusion and transforming government 
Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities – Local Digital Collaboration and sign-posting resources. Sharing best practice. 
Digital Catapult and Connected Places Catapult Digital technology innovation 
Doughnut Economics Action Lab (DEAL) Doughnut economics 
DSIT Secure Connected Places team Connected places, Cyber resilience 
DSIT Smart City Expert Advisory Group Use of smart/emerging technologies and data to improve local outcomes 
GeoPlace Geospatial information, location intelligence and Standards.  
Jisc Strategic partnership for the mutual benefit of both organisations 
Lancaster University – Imagination Lancaster Citizen and community engagement in spatial planning. 
Local CIO Council Policy and influencing on behalf of Socitm membership and network 
Local Government Association (LGA) Cybersecurity maturity assessment and support Digital workforce development 
London Office of Technology Innovation (LoTI) Collaboration and sign-posting resources. Sharing best practice.  
Microsoft New business models harnessing technologies and data for Integrated care.  
National Cyber Security Centre Cyber resilience, standards, support, and guidance 
Observatory of Public Sector Innovation International case studies, research and innovation tools 
OECD AI Policy Observatory Global source of information and dialogue on artificial intelligence 
Open Data institute (ODI) Open data, Standards, Skills 
PETRAS National Centre of Excellence to ensure that technological advances in the Internet of Things are developed and applied in consumer and business contexts, safely and securely. 
Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) Geospatial data, planning, sustainable development  
Smart Cities World Platform for sharing ideas and case studies to solve urban challenges that enable us to live in more resilient, sustainable, safe, and prosperous environments.  
Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers (SOLACE) Collaboration and sign-posting resources, sharing best practice, leadership development 
St Georges House Thought leadership; transformation 
TechUK Collaboration and sign-posting resources, sharing best practice 
The Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis Geospatial data, planning and environment Promotion of policy positions and research findings, collaboration and sign-posting resources, sharing best practice, providing platform for Socitm President’s Team 
University of the West of England (UWE), Bristol City leadership and urban management, Innovation in local governance  
Table of key stakeholders and their areas of focus

Key sources

Source Authors and contributors  Why is this useful? Date 
Socitm – Digital Trends 2023 Jos Creese, Martin Ferguson, David Ogden Connected places can reduce costs, manage demand, contain risks and drive better outcomes and productivity.  2023 
Socitm – Smart Places  Jos Creese, Martin Ferguson A series of guides introducing the concept of ‘smart places.’ Their starting point is ‘people in places’ and how technology can connect infrastructure, business, communities, public service and individual citizens in ways that were previously impossible, improving economic and social well-being and transforming public services.  2016 
Socitm – Mudlarking in the social ecology of cities – breaking the public policy impasse  Martin Ferguson How cities are breaking the public policy impasse of recent decades that has allowed the wellbeing of significant parts of their places to be forgotten, to be placed in the ‘too difficult’ box.   2020 
Socitm ConnectsWilliam Barker Socitm’s strategy 2022-25 to enable and empower Socitm’s members to play their role in supporting and transforming the resilience of people, communities, organisations and places they serve. 2022 
Socitm – Integrated CareJos Creese, Martin Ferguson An analysis of international, integrated healthcare models and the digital opportunities that they portray. 2022 
Socitm – Harnessing Data Collection Jos creese, Martin Ferguson, Jisc, Splunk Unlocking the potential of data. Understanding that data is at the heart of everything we do, helping local public services unlock the secret to using data.  2019 
Socitm – Location intelligence collection ConsultingWhere, GeoPlace, Local Government Association Location intelligence is being used to better understand the characteristics of communities, infrastructure and places, and when and where they need services. 2020 
Socitm – Resilience and regeneration collectionWilliam Barker This collection comprises three interrelated research programmes that build on our key policy themes, leadership training, development activities, and mapping of digital trends in public services. 2023 
NCSC – guidance on collected places  This guidance will help authorities build awareness and understanding of the security considerations needed to design, build, and manage their connected places (often referred to as smart cities). 2021 
CISA – Cybersecurity best practices for Smart Cities  Integrating public services into a connected environment can increase the efficiency and resilience of the infrastructure that supports day-to-day life in our communities. However, communities considering becoming smart cities should thoroughly assess and mitigate the cybersecurity risk that comes with this integration.  2023 
DSIT Secure, connected places  A community that integrates information and communication technologies and Internet of Things (IoT) devices to collect and analyse data to deliver new services to the built environment and enhance the quality of living for citizens. 2022 
Connected places catapult  The application of today’s emerging technologies to the places we live, work and play will enable even greater levels of connectivity, driving new services, productivity gains and prosperity.  
EU Smart cities  Cities using technological solutions to improve the management and efficiency of the urban environment.   UKAuthority explores and showcases best practice and innovation in the use of technology, digital and data for the delivery of modern public services that meet both the needs of the public sector and the citizens they serve.  
Deloitte Insights  Deloitte Insights’ mission is to help future-focused leaders navigate the challenges and opportunities coming next.  
KPMG Public Sector Insights  Helping government become more connected to deliver citizen-centric services.  
McKinsey & Company The Daily Read McKinsey Quarterly Reports  We partner with bold leaders every step of the way. Pinpointing the strategy that will reshape tomorrow. Harnessing innovation to reach net zero. Transforming through technology.  
Doughnut Economics Action Lab  How-to guides that anyone can use and adapt, and inspiring examples of Doughnut Economics in action around the world.   
Smart Cities World   SmartCitiesWorld is a world-leading platform for sharing ideas and case studies to solve urban challenges that enable us to live in more resilient, sustainable, safe, and prosperous environments.  
Smart Cities Council  Technology and data for a safer, more activated, beautiful, sustainable, resilient and equitable future for everyone.  
Table of key sources

Timeline: Connected Places collection roadmap

Note: There is an extended project plan used for the project team meetings.

Connected Places collection roadmap (click to open in new tab)

Annex 1: Terms of Reference  

Project Steering Group 


The Project Steering Group is the primary decision-making body for the project.  


  1. Provide direction and advice in development and implementation of project deliverables.  
  1. Generate ideas and offer relevant content. 
  1. Approve the project plan, delegations and associated timeline and maintain oversight of any subsequent amendments. 
  1. Seek and consider advice and seek to resolve any escalations/conflicts reported from the Project Team. 
  1. Receive progress reports from the Project Management Group. 
  1. Review and approve any information prior to public release or other disclosure. 
  1. Advise on wider communications, contacts, engagement and promotion.  
  1. Direct information be provided by the Project Management Group and request information from the Project Team. 

Steering Group Chair

Jos Creese – Socitm Associate Director – the chair has the right to delegate this role to another group member if unable to attend a meeting. 


At least three members of the Project Steering Group shall be present to form a quorum. 

Meeting frequency  

Quarterly after project commencement until project completion (unless otherwise agreed by the Project Steering Group). 

Project Team 


The main purpose of the team is to develop and deliver the project plan. 


  1. Develop the project plan and framework. 
  1. Determine the methodology to be used on the project. 
  1. Deliver the plan.  
  1. Meet regularly to review progress, resolve problems and manage risks, with structured escalation to the Steering Group. 
  1. Maintain regular communications, advise and report on any issues to the Steering Group.