On Thursday, November 30th, iNetwork marked a significant milestone with its largest hybrid event to date, hosting 120 delegates in Manchester and welcoming over 70 additional guests online throughout the day. This special event, commemorating iNetwork’s 20th Anniversary, brought together esteemed members and supporters for a day filled with engaging discussions and insights.

The event boasted an impressive line-up of 29 speakers across 13 sessions, offering both in-person and online attendees a wealth of choices. The opening panel featured Alison McKenzie Folan, Chief Executive of Wigan Council and the new iNetwork Chair, Morten Gammelgard, Co-founder of headline sponsor Bullwall, and Kathryn Rees, Director of Strategy at Stockport Council. Chaired by Phil Swan, Director of Digital at GMCA, the panel reflected on the challenges faced by the local public sector over the past two decades, including the global pandemic, austerity, political instability, and the rising cyber threat.

Alison and Kathryn shared innovative approaches from their respective authorities, emphasising the development of a positive culture and core values to overcome challenges and demonstrate value to citizens and communities. Morten highlighted the evolving cyber threat landscape, underscoring the importance of investing in robust cybersecurity measures and participating in communities such as WARP to counter the increasing sophistication of attacks.

In addition to the regular opening and closing panels, two additional panels delved into the topical issues of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and managing supply chain risks. These sessions provided members with opportunities to engage in diverse discussions and gain valuable ideas for their organisations.

The day featured insightful sessions and discussions in three concurrent streams, covering themes closely linked to iNetwork’s core program areas, including social value, place leadership, cybersecurity, and commercialisation.

The concluding panel discussion brought together former iNetwork Chair Steven Pleasant, Healthy Lives Adviser at SYMCA, iNetwork Deputy Chair Sarah Bullock, Director of Policy and Change at Cheshire East Council and Madeline Hoskin, Assistant Director of Technology at North Yorkshire Council. Once again chaired by Phil Swan, the conversation discussed what the future holds for the local public sector.

The panel commenced by reflecting on the significant changes and inherent volatility that the local public sector has experienced in recent decades. The discussion delved into transformative shifts, including strategic and structural changes such as devolution, alongside escalating challenges like health inequalities and the imperative to attract talent for a future ready workforce. Emphasising the necessity for adaptive local leadership, the conversation described the crucial role it plays in fostering innovation and encouraging broader participation in the design and delivery of services.

Between seminar sessions, attendees had numerous opportunities for valuable networking with peers and trusted suppliers. The exhibition areas buzzed with activity as suppliers hosted demos, showcasing how their products could enhance local service delivery. The event concluded with a celebratory drinks reception hosted by the headline sponsor, Bullwall, providing a fitting end to the conference and an opportunity for the team to reconnect with both old and new members and supporters of iNetwork.

For those who couldn’t attend or missed certain sessions, the conference platform, Whova, now hosts all session recordings, allowing participants to catch up on the great content showcased at the event. If you didn’t register for the conference but are interested in accessing the content, please get in touch.

Looking ahead, iNetwork is excited to announce that its Annual Conference will return in November 2024. We hope to welcome back many members to Manchester for this anticipated event. Additionally, for those with a specific interest in cybersecurity, iNetwork will host the Northern WARP conference in a hybrid format at Kings House Conference Centre on 5th July 2024, with registration opening in the New Year.

In summary, iNetwork’s 20th Anniversary event proved to be a resounding success, bringing together a diverse and engaged community, fostering insightful discussions, and providing a platform for valuable networking and knowledge-sharing.