In October I was fortunate enough to be part of a fantastic trip to Chicago with colleagues from the University of Birmingham, with part of our agenda dedicated to developing Birmingham’s Public Services Academy (PSA).
As one of our Sister Cities we have great links with business, government, and academia in Chicago and through collaboration with them we developed some really interesting ideas in the past. Now, through the PSA creating an innovative partnership bringing academia and the public sector together in new and interesting ways… and, bizarrely, we are now as well known in Chicago for it as we are locally!
For me, if we are all collectively going to get the most from the PSA, it needs to be energetic, buzzing with ideas, full of opportunities and fuelled by a debate which people want to be part of. That’s why I can see this ‘blog’, along with all the other interactive forums we are developing for the PSA, being so important in creating a space for debate.
So here goes…
From my perspective the need for a successful PublicServicesAcademy hangs around the fact that we, in the Council, are going through a period of massive change and challenge. Aside from the well publicised budget pressure we are undergoing a huge and radical transformation process which is fundamentally going to overhaul the way we do ‘business’ as a Local Authority.
Looking at things now, given a blank sheet of paper you could not design the public sector and its limbs the way it is. Despite sustained efforts in recent years through a plethora of efficiency programmes, lean thinking exercises, customer service initiatives, and e-government innovations etc… if you think about it, the public sector still pretty much looks like it did when it was last radically overhauled in the post war period.
A great example is the way in which we divide up what the NHS does and what much of our Adults Services does in the way we care for and support the elderly. If you started from the citizen and designed services around their needs it would be very different.
Thinking of different ways of doing things, look at the way modern easy-to-use and intuitive technology can be used in a tele-health care sense. How fantastic would it be if all your hospital, GP, Council and other “support” agency data was help in a secure cloud space and we all referred to the same data and really treated our citizens and customers as individuals that we wrapped our services and information around?
Testing and developing ideas and notions such as this isn’t easy. Its needs to be worked through with people doing the day job, and it needs the intellectual rigour of professionals and academics. It needs considered thought behind designing and managing change, and we need to make sure that the Public Servants of the future are being trained now to work in a potentially very different environment. In many cases it also probably needs someone to act as an honest broker to bring together the partners and stakeholders who have the experiences of past successes. Only through doing this can you really start to push the envelope that bit further. Birmingham and the public sector have the ability to create a new legacy – re-engineering services in a way which requires fresh perspectives and challenging norms. For me, the public sector will create history. It will be made up of people who are interested in reshaping and redesigning communities as sustained enterprises. Variety will be at the heart of role contents and career paths.
So the PSA is an engine to drive that change – and a two way street between the University and the Council (indeed, the wider Public Sector). We are giving work placement and experience opportunities in exchange for new thinking, fresh energy and the development of our own workforce.
Within the multitude of services that we have within Birmingham City Council there is a huge variety to shoot at, and through the great challenge we face also great opportunity.
Whilst the fundamental questions being asked of the entire Public Sector and Public Servants are very difficult, there is no reason why the answers shouldn’t be coming pro-actively from Birmingham. We already have some of the best officers and members in the country, who care deeply and are doing some very innovative things. We also have one of the best University’s in the country, which is genuinely committed to playing a full civic role within the city. The ingredients are there for Birmingham to be a real melting pot of ideas, and the generator of solutions which shape the public sector of tomorrow.
What do you think?
Strategic Director: Development & Culture
Birmingham City Council
This is the blog associated with the University of Birmingham’s Public Service Academy; an initiative that seeks to build on the University’s expertise around public services and provide a platform for strategic interaction with a range of national and international public service partners.
You can find more information about the PSA and its activities at our website
This blog is intended to be a platform for discussion for those interested in public services. Every month we will focus on a key issue in relation to public services and invite key stakeholders to write a piece for us which will stimulate debate.
If you are interested in writing for the blog or have any questions about the PSA please contact Helen Dickinson at firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also follow us on Twitter using #BhamPSA