A good dollop of our work is about helping public servants work differently in a world where power through communication is shifting and many citizens want and are happy to have more control. Over the years we have urged thousands of people to tend to their “stock pot of social capital” – especially public servants who are often more used to serving systems than relationships.
So I keep coming back to the nature of 21st century public service. Whether it’s pleading to not sack the connectors, suggesting ways to merge citizenship and public service or simply reflecting on values or skills, the shift is behaviour and attitude that is needed fascinates.
I am enjoying working a little (supporting their social media) with the team at Birmingham University who are investigating just this subject.
Catherine Mangan, Catherine Needham and Helen Dickinson have just published a review of literature on this subject and identified 8 key themes on the future of public service,:
- Future public services will require a different set of workforce roles than in the past: “public services of the future will require more relational approaches. “
- Citizens are changing too “Whilst ‘consumer’ is a term with a range of meanings, one interpretation is that it is an individualistic and passive perspective, in which people expect to interact with public services through the same customer paradigm that operates in the commercial sector. This can be contrasted with more co-productive approaches that recognise and harness citizen expertise and appetite for involvement so that they are a key part of service improvement”
- Generic skills will be as important as technical skills for future public servants ‘twenty-first century literacies’. These include: interpersonal skills (facilitation, empathy, political skills);synthesising skills (sorting evidence, analysis, making judgements, offering critique and being creative); organising skills for group work, collaboration and peer review; communication skills, making better use of new media and multi-media resources
- Ethics and values are changing as the boundaries of public service shift “Better understanding the bundle of incentives that motivate people to serve the public is part of the workforce challenge for 21st Century public services.
- Emotional labour will be a key element of future public service work “Emotional labour is defined as, ‘the expression of one’s capacity to manage personal emotions, sense others’ emotions, and to respond appropriately, based on one’s job’”
Perma-austerity is catalysing and inhibiting change “continuity seems to dominate within local government…witness in salami slicing tactics (less of the same) rather than bold new visions…”
- Hero leaders aren’t the answer “a need for a newkind of public sector leader to respond to the changing context, in which leadership beyond boundaries and beyond spans of authority will become more important”
- Lots of professions are coming to these conclusions, but are tackling the issues separately
The literature review alone is a useful read – yet to come will be interviews with public servants and recommendation.