Posted tagged ‘public’

Stupid, selfish and lazy

May 11, 2011

A picture speaks a thousand words... Or four

A good friend of mine recently sent me a link to a video of a talk by a guy named Dave Meslin. You can view his talk here.

We’re not normally ones to idly link to other people’s work on our site but his talk about apathy (what it is and what it definitely isn’t) is well worth a watch. We don’t necessarily agree with it all but there are some great points that are worth considering for every local government employee.

Whilst I don’t want to pre-judge your viewing enjoyment there was one thing in there that really struck a bell with me. Towards the end of his talk Dave says that one of the problems is the way we (and here I think he means everyone in Government) think about members of the public.

Too often, we, in the words of Dave, think that members of the public are:

Stupid

Selfish

Lazy

The way we think about the people we serve undoubtedly colours our work.

How often do we stop what we’re doing and re-evaluate our pre-conceptions about the people we work for? Too many times in life I’ve heard people, and sometimes even myself, say things along the lines of:

‘What do they know anyway?’

‘My life would be ok if it wasn’t for the stupid residents’

‘I’d get more work down if it wasn’t for yet another complaint from the councillor’

This isn’t always the case but what if the assumption was the other way round? If our first thought was something like:

‘I’ve just heard something from a resident I didn’t expect; what should I do differently?’

‘My job is to serve the residents first and foremost; if only I didn’t have so much paperwork etc to do I could spend more time providing services for them’

‘Good job the councillor raised that on behalf of their constituent otherwise we might have missed it.’

Maybe I’m overegging the pudding a little but I thought it was a useful corrective to a sometimes easy trap to fall into.

Thanks Dave!

http://www.ted.com/talks/dave_meslin_the_antidote_to_apathy.html

Welovelocalgovernment is a blog written by UK local government officers. If you have a piece you’d like to submit or any comments you’d like to make please drop us a line at: welovelocalgovernment@gmail.com 

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Talking about talking

March 15, 2011

 

Be careful or the public might tell you what they actually want

Here at We Love Local Government we love a good guest post, and here indeed is a guest post worth loving.  If you’ve got something to do with local government you’d like to write about from any angle (even if you think we’d disagree with you) then e-mail it to us at welovelocalgovernment@gmail.com.  Until you do though, read this and enjoy.

Reading the recent WLLG post on the way in which councils talk to local people brought back some unpleasant memories for me. I used to be a scrutiny officer. Without knowing much (ok, anything) about the art or science of “community engagement” I and my colleagues, with backbench Members, periodically organised public meetings to inform scrutiny committees’ views on various topics of local interest.
One particularly good one was on the subject of a high-profile local community event. The council and a number of other “local partners” – including the police – wanted to make some significant changes to the way it was run. Predictably, local people – including the organisers of the event – didn’t. Predictably, there was a massive bunfight, generating far more heat than light. We found it difficult – practically impossible, in fact – to get through the agenda, because attendees kept butting in and heckling. It was all the chairman could do to keep order. In the end we got through it but it was a hairy experience and I, as a relatively junior officer, wiped my brow and silently vowed to myself that I’d never do it again. (more…)

Invisible You

March 3, 2011

Surely we know what we're talking about?

For Valentines Day my other half gave me a very unexpected and welcome surprise by writing a piece for us on how involved she felt she was and wanted to be with her local Council.  She shared that she had very little to do with the council, instead trusting them to do what was needed as well as they could.  Whilst some people felt that this was an old fashioned view which doesn’t exist any more, I can assure you that it is alive and kicking at home!

It got me thinking about how much time and effort we put into engagement with the public and whether or not it is effort well spent.  I speak with a small degree of knowledge having worked I the public engagement arena for almost 16 years in one form or another, both in the public and voluntary sectors.

In my current workplace we are constantly developing things which affect our residents: action plans, strategies, policies, procedures, and headaches amongst others.  As is the way with any hierarchical organisation the real work is done by operational staff who generally know their onions, and base their thoughts and ideas on extensive theoretical and practical knowledge mixed with a healthy dose of experience.  They rarely suggest anything outrageous, and generally strive to do what is best.

These plans and projects then begin their slow crawl through the bureaucratic process to get signed off and implemented: this often involves a variation on taking it to their team, their line manager, their service head (and their team), their director (and their team) and potentially on to the chief exec and then on in turn to elected members and/or mayors and their advisors.  None of this is quick, and with each new person or group comes a perceived requirement to change a bit here or ask a pointless question there.

And of course at the final hurdle comes the usual phrase: have you done any consultation with the public?  No?  Well, go away and do it and then come back when you have. (more…)

Hold on lads, I’ve got an idea

August 26, 2010

The classic phrase is something along the lines of ‘if you put a million monkeys in front of a million typewriters for an infinite amount of time, eventually one will reproduce the complete works of Shakespeare’.  Well, if apparently if you ask 65m people to come up with ideas for cutting the national defecit and saving money you’ll get a seemingly endless numbers of suggestions (whittled down to about 45,000 so far), both weird and wonderful.

In case you’ve missed it, the government have been asking people online to come up with any and all ideas for ways to cut costs, and boy have the people responded.  Interestingly, apparently two-thirds of suggestions have come from public sector staff (although take with a pinch of salt any piece of information presented with the word ‘apparently’ as a precursor).

There are literally tens of thousands of suggestions on the site, many of which are repeats, racist, xenophobic or just plain stupid.  However, there are some real gems in there, with some so basic and easy to do it really made me scratch my head and try to justify why they have yet to be done. (more…)