Internet dating is extremely popular: Collaboration is extremely important

Written by Gareth Young on . Posted in Our blog

27th August 2013

On Thursday last week we put up a quick post with a few ideas for how we could join up bureaucrats from across the public sector. The idea we pitched revolved around ‘internet dating’ where we would join up like minded bureaucrats from different sectors to spend some time together; perhaps in a ‘buddying’ style relationship. As we said:

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.

Well, it turned out that this idea was neither new nor particularly innovative. The NGDP are apparently already doing something similar with colleagues in the civil service fast stream (hopefully, the good people of the Guardian Local Leaders Network will do a little article featuring the work to see how well it works).

And that was not all; Phil Rumens has also written something suggesting internet dating in the public sector. What makes Phil’s suggestion interesting is that his proposal is far more in keeping with the spirit of dating; in that the match-ups would be designed to achieve a little procreation! I’ll let Phil explain:

A while ago, at a LocalGov Digital Steering Group I suggested the idea of a "dating site" or Kickstarter for Local Government. This week I was discussing Nesta's new Creative Commons Europe site with Carl Haggerty and Paul Mackay; it seemed like a good idea to re-visit the subject. 

When it comes to digital services, councils often tend to buy off-the-shelf solutions with a customised look and feel. This means that essentially, some suppliers are selling the same thing over and over again with a different paint job.

He continues:

So let's say I'm looking to create new digital service and I have a limited development resource with which to create it. I'd go to Appstarter, write a brief description of what I wanted and break the work down into chunks. The author could specify which resources they had and what they needed. A extremely basic version of this could look like:

Digital service for residents to report missed bin collections. 
Have: C# development.
Need: Database development, Graphic design, Web design , UX design.

Those interested in collaborating to produce something could then pledge their skills and time to fulfil one of the roles in creating and continuing to improve the service. Yes, this would make the project more complex than buying something off-the-shelf, but it wouldn't need project managers for each participating authority, as each council buying and implementing (or developing) their own system most likely would.

I’d recommend you check out Phil’s post in full; it's very good.

What is interesting about this, and about the other comments we received on this topic (John Popham pointed me in the direction of Social Care Curry Club for example) is that they all point to the same thing: a recognition from forward thinking public servants that the best way to make progress in our very different roles is through collaboration.

Whether this collaboration is informal, such as our dating proposal or the NGDP scheme, semi-structured such as the social care curry club or far more structured such as Phil’s Appstarter idea every proposals recognises the value of working together with others to come to better outcomes.


Of all the skills public sector staff might need in the future, perhaps the ability to collaborate is the most important?

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