There was a brief flurry of song at a 21st Century Public Servant Masterclass in South Staffordshire yesterday when one of the groups suggested that officers need to ‘Let it go’. What was being let go was the idea of control and authority that may have characterised some local government professions in the past. The future of local public services will be more chaotic, improvised and coproduced than the past, based on systems leadership rather than hierarchical authority.
At the Local Government Association Conference in Harrogate this week we are talking to delegates about our future plans for the 21stC Public Servant work and outlining our new project on the 21stC Councillor. You can hear Catherine Mangan talking about both of these things in a conference session first thing on Thursday morning. The 21stC Public Servant work is being taken forward by a national steering group, involving us, the LGA, SOLACE and PPMA, along with five local authorities who are undertaking strategic workforce change in line with the 10 themes of the 21stC Public Servant research. We have got a great sample of authorities involved (a county, a unitary, a metropolitan council and two districts), giving us broad insight into how the themes are resonating in different settings and parts of the country. With the national partners we will use these insights to identify the best way to support other local authorities who want to move forward in similar ways.
In the autumn we are also starting work on our 21st Century Councillors project. A number of people we have spoken to when disseminating the existing research have pointed out the need to bring in the councillor perspective: what kind of councillors will 21st Century Public Services be working with? What skills do councillors have and where are the gaps? How can officers and councillors develop effective relationships that allow a more experimental and reflective type of working to emerge? How can both use social media in ways that complement rather than clash with each other? Working in partnership with NorthWest Employers these are the issues we will be exploring through interviews with councillors.
If you’ve got views on the 21st Century Councillor, get in touch, or even better write us a blog!