On Friday 27th March a group of graduates from the NGDP local government graduate scheme gathered for the annual-ish Alumni conference. I really enjoy these events; as much as they provide an opportunity to catch up with former colleagues (although less this year) more importantly they attract good speakers and interesting break out sessions.
This year was no exception. I’ve admitted before that my best reflections of the events actually happen well after they conclude and whilst that is not a full excuse for it taking me 5 days to write them up it is at least one reason why this is a little later than I had planned. And so, in the spirit of Dan Slee, onto my thoughts:
1) Matthew Taylor, he of the RSA, was brilliant in outlining his thoughts on leadership. I wouldn’t be able to do his talk justice but his three efficacies of deliverology, managing and influencing systems and self-management are extremely valuable concepts and ones that I will continue to refer back to. I suggest to anyone interested in the topic to seek out a subsequent talk by him on this issue.
2) Everyone has days when they think: ‘It is hard being me’… A comment from Matthew that resonated with me (and I think the whole audience).
3) The panel of speakers was unintentionally split with Matthew Taylor and Dominic Campbell on one side of the panel and the CEX of the LGA and Director of Straegy from PHE on the other side. It made for an interesting juxtaposition and one I think represented somewhat of the split between those of us ‘doing the day job’ and those with the the space to take the broader view. The challenge for all of us who aspire to lead change in local government (in whatever small way) is how to unite the two elements.
4) Stories are important. I was very taken by an comment from Dom who was complaining about local government commissioning and asked when was the last time a council sought to commission from a ‘story’ of an individual and what they want from their care. I was taken with this as a solution: I recognise the challenges but as we went through the day and discussed ethnography and it’s role in innovation I was reminded of this challenge. A good social worker does something like this when designing care packages but is this reflected in our commissioning?
How we adapt our approaches to this type of commissioning is perhaps one of the big challenges we face. I’m not sure if the answer but I’d like to explore it further.
5) The self-confident bureaucrat. Myself and Glen has riffed over the years on the need for local government to have a mature relationship with the private sector recognising that they are a major and important partner in our enterprises. I was taken, as I was at Govcamp in January, by the opposite point of view being taken amongst young, innovative and interesting local government officers. A couple of time people questioned the ‘sychophancy’ with which people in local government approach the private sector. I don’t necessarily see it that way but I love the new self-confident bureaucrat who is able to look at the service we receive from some of our private partners and think that we could do this better ourselves.
6) Never underestimate local government Chief Executives. If ever there was a doubt that these are some of the best people working in public services then 30 minutes with Carolyn Wilkins from Oldham would rid you of that mis-apprehension.
7) I still love the NGDP graduates. As with any groups there are hits and misses but when you meet up with the alumni you are reminded just how inspiring this group is.
I was a member of the NGDP and thus am rather loyal to the scheme. However, it’s not the only source of great people in local government. As suc, I hope we might be able to expand the reach in future years and hope that the above is useful for any interested local government reader.