Walk Tall: Being a 21st Century Public Servant was launched in Birmingham on Friday. It’s a great creative step for me and our fourth Shared Press book. We’re really chuffed. Over the last 4 months I’ve been working with Fran Collingham and Lisa Hughes – on this fantastic commission for the Local Government Association, SOLACE – the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and the PPMA (the HR and OD people managers association for the public sector). We’ve also commissioned photography for the first time from Maurice Keogh, and worked again with designer Kate Ferrucci.
Download the ebook for free at the Local Government Association Website:
Our challenge was to write and facilitate compelling stories that illustrate the experience of being a 21st century public servant and that inspire people working in or with the public sector to develop the characteristics of this new breed. The stories are a positive reminder that, in the post-Brexit world, that the sector employs people who are already creating original solutions to complex issues. Their deeply held values, positivity, flexibility, progressive attitudes and fresh thinking jump off the page. The book illustrates why I’m proud of public service in the UK and why I continue to support and write about it.
Each chapter of the book focuses on one of the characteristics identified in the research on the 21st century public servant carried out by Birmingham University. Each story brings a characteristic to life, shining a light on what it means in practice, in real workplaces across the country. The contents are an intriguing mix of personal narratives, profiles, opinions and short fiction. We wanted to reflect the diversity of what is happening across the sector and invited as many storytellers as we could into print, encouraging people to write their own stories.
The book includes a reflective piece by Sue Hawkins, a psychologist in the Youth Offending team at Stockport Council, on fostering a shared humanity with the young people she works with; a gritty and immensely practical frontline view from Lindsay Saunders and Heather Brown, local government Key Workers based in a police station in Wigan, focusing on their relationship with their locality; and Ian Lloyd, Transformation Manager for the Isle of Wight Council, on how communicating change to citizens is central to his creative thinking in response to austerity. There is also a sideways take on pan-public sector leadership by Mark Rogers, Chief Executive of Birmingham City Council. In times of upheaval it can be tempting to fall back on traditional, hero-style leadership, but these stories show how collaborative and distributed leadership can make a significant difference.
Although we know the book doesn’t scratch the surface in terms of the range and depth of the contributions public servants make, we are delighted that 65 people from 25 organisations have taken part including colleagues in local government, the NHS and the Fire and Rescue Service, as well as – in today’s mixed economy of service provision – public servants working in voluntary and private sector providers. Serving communities and improving people’s lives is a driving force and clear motivator for all our contributors, and public service is at the heart of every story.
As the leader of the team that curated the book (and a former corporate director in local government), it’s been a creative and inspiring experience. In the same spirit, we hope that everyone who reads it will use the book creatively and – importantly – will pass it on to colleagues. We believe that by changing the story, you change the workforce, the organisation and the sector. This storybook is bold and the people in it are fantastic. They are the ones who will stitch the post-Brexit world together.
We asked all our contributors to take selfies of their shoes in keeping with the theme. There’s a fab guide dog in it too!