The Local Government Association is recruiting 36 councils to put its pledges on hard-to-reach areas of public policy into practice .
The association wants six councils to work on each pledge, which range from improving 'liveability' to helping older people live independently.
It is already in discussion with civil servants on how to take these forward, and will bring councillors and staff from the pilot councils into these meetings once they have been chosen. The 36 will be announced over the summer.
In a final burst of activity before Parliament breaks for the summer recess, the association is seeking to influence the contents of the local government white paper expected this autumn.
It is not enough for councils to get rewards once they succeed, the association is telling ministers. To achieve the best they can, councils must get freedoms, flexibilities and responsibilities in advance.
LGA director of communications Phil Swann said: 'The white paper has to position local government as central to the debate about public services.'
The LGA is asking for the white paper to address the recruitment crisis across local government.
A circular will be sent out next week asking councils to volunteer.