Many times over the past few years myself and Glen have talked about the lack of connectedness between local government officers and our counterparts in other public services.
How many times do we sit down and chew the fat with civil servants in Whitehall or administrators at the local hospital or sergeants at the local police station? In some jobs, and in some areas, the connectedness of the bureaucrats in closer than in others.
However, there is still much room for improvement.
Often, where there are good relationships these are primarily about various officers working together in the interests of their own public services. This is great, and a real improvement on how many of these public service relationships have existed in the past. However, I wonder whether there is a need to get beyond the transactional relationship.
We all know the benefits we gain by sitting in the same office as colleagues who work in slightly different areas to us. We bounce ideas off each other, we learn more about the services our colleagues provide and we pick up on the small things that often we miss when sitting quietly in our silos.
Fixing this is not easy.
Indeed, from a local government perspective it is often difficult to get people who work in children’s services to talk to colleagues who work in adult’s services (to use two services at random). However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t important; I’ve always thought we need to do something to informally break down the silos in local government and the differences between the different sectors is surely even starker.
I’m sure this is one of those areas that other people have tried and failed in the past but let me drop in my own little idea; speed dating for bureaucrats.
The idea is that much like we sometimes encourage staff to find themselves a mentor we instead give staff a little time each month to meet with a ‘buddy’ working in a different sector. Rather than the meetings being transactional they would be an opportunity to talk about ideas, policy development or just simply to get an informed outsider’s views on a tricky work problem. Over time the level of understanding between sectors would grow and with it the opportunities for closer, and more efficient, working would hopefully develop.
And here’s where the internet dating comes in. We could match up the officers from different sectors using a typical dating site template asking staff to identify their interests and the type of policy areas they’re interested in. Alternatively, we don’t need to be so technical and we could form partnerships between organisations which can act as the fulcrum around which these informal relationships build.
This might sound like an unworkable idea but perhaps one way of trying it out is to do so with new entrants to local government, the civil service, the NHS or other services. There are probably enough people in the graduate schemes of the respective organisations that we could start by pairing them up and see how it works.
This country, like many others, struggles with joining up its public services. We therefore need as many ideas, however odd sounding, to try and join them up. If you have any others, or think our ‘internet dating’ might work, please drop us a line.