Writing from a bracing Belfast…

What did I get up to this week? Well…

I wrote a bid for a new Fast Streamer (graduate) to join our team and put forward my possible dates to be an assessor.

I gave a presentation to my directorate on One Team Gov, with the help of Stefan and James. It added a lot to have Stefan’s explanation and analysis of the original conference and the Reimagine 2017 conference, and James talked about the personal connections he’s made — which is something I really appreciate too. So now we’ve opened up the network and ideas to another c25 people and I’ve moved things around so I can ‘bring a buddy’ along to the nascent Leeds breakfast on Wednesday.

I found out I didn’t get on to the FLS (Future Leaders Scheme) but the feedback came through this week and one of my interviewers offered to talk with me about what I can do for my personal development so I’ll follow up and think about what I can improve on.

Did a flying dash over to half of the new One Team Gov lunch at DfE, where we did a Lean Coffee approach — which was new to me. Everyone wrote some discussion topics on post its, voted on them for the agenda, and then you vote on when you want to move on. I wonder if I can incorporate any of this approach into our work meetings or next week’s mini Away Day?

I enjoyed chatting to Kate Shiner and Mark O’Neill about breaking departmental barriers [interesting idea — can we all just go sit in other departments and make connecitons by mixing up our locations?] — and the start of the OTG conversation about not creating more siloes, only wish I hadn’t had to dash back!

Also, I’m glad we’ve got a lunchtime option for meet ups — its more inclusive and a different crowd are available. We do have to try harder on opening up and diversity. On neurodiversity (still not sure if thats exactly what I mean) I had an interesting chat with Carla who does Behavioural Science and is trying to see if she can actively recruit for different kinds of neurodiversity.

One Team Gov Breakfast’s topic was feedback — as a source of feedback/data rather than the more usual (?) approach of just responding. I think part of engaging our people in this is talking about the human stories behind the complaints. Stories are more powerful than statistics. I liked the idea that letting off steam can be important in and of itself, and that listening to this kind of ‘feedback’ is about humility. Are we ok with being wrong? Is user research being ok with letting people have a pop at you? A question came up — would we react differently if we were profit making? Based on my experience, I think it might be more about scale — smaller, more flexible organisations caring more about their customers? Large organisations seem to be focussed on processes, governance and lose this kind of information.

One good thing

Last weekend I read a good twitter thread on why giving cash to homeless people was actually good thing to do — and not doing so was kind of judgemental. And I thought about it while out doing my usual homeless volunteering on Saturday morning. Based on my experience, I’ve always encouraged people not to give cash but to donate to a charity or buy a thing for someone, but I now think that might be rather judgemental of me. I get to spend my money on whatever I like — so if you’re willing to give, then doesn’t the person receiving get to choose what they spend it on? I’m sure its not for everyone, but I thought I’d try harder and so have been deliberately not doing the ‘sorry I don’t have any change’ and been giving away more cash this week.

I think I’m not being as generous as I should (should being very much my own standards) — so I’m going to try harder to introduce one good thing a week.

Not saying “guys”

I hate when I use the wrong word for something when it might be problematic. I used the wrong word for something on Wednesday and it worried me all day that I might have clumsily caused offence. Fortunately there are awesome people around like Kylie Havelock who prod when it’s not ok

So, I will be consciously trying not to say ‘guys’

and clearly DWP Digital is taking on board its feedback too!

Interesting things to share

On empathy and kindness in government: I really enjoyed Kits piece building on her TED talk and Kylie’s article about design.

The Bottom Line on why Diversity is Good For Business — I am a massive Radio 4 evangelist (I learn so much) and this Bottom Line (business programme) has some great things on cognitive diversity

This weekend I’ve been in Belfast for a wedding. Thinking about the importance of human stories, I want to mention the Black Cab Tour we went around the Peace Walls and Murals of Belfast. Years ago I worked on Devolution in a Minister’s Office and though I wasn’t working on policy making, just logistics and connecting people, and perhaps I’m very naive but I had very little idea of how current the divisions are and what this means directly on the streets. Hearing and seeing what is clearly still very live, was incredibly powerful, and if anyone reading this is heading to Belfast, I cant recommend it highly enough.

Oh yes, and I got the dress done — just- including sewing the hem on an early morning flight to Belfast…

And this week’s note is a shortish one because of that damn essay I keep mentioning!

Next Week

Bolting up and down to Leeds and its a three day week because I’m off to the other side of the world on Thursday!


Take away thought, from the Vicar on Saturday: Life is not a dress rehearsal

Original source – Stories by Jenny Vass on Medium

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