This series is going on forever…. might be time for a break soon.
Power / empowerment / language / soft stuff
I’ve been thinking a lot about digital transformation, working in this space of change, of user centred design, of service design. Of power structures and hierarchies. Of empowerment and disempowerment, and the casual ways that we disempower others.
- Of the effects of being a person pushing for change in an environment that isn’t ready for you yet.
- Of having vision but meeting dead ends.
- Of feeling alone.
- Of feeling like you’re expected to be solely responsible for change.
What if a training offering for people working in local gov concentrated on empowering the people who feel like that? To help them to recognise their own empowerment, and to take advantage of it, without feeling responsible for doing everything?
What if training concentrated on development at a personal level and not just for organisational gains? I’ve known people gaining qualifications just to prove, just to show that they can do something. What if we just trusted that they could? What if we just believed in continual improvement and learning? What if people didn’t need to prove themselves within our organisations?
What if it’s not practitioner skills we need, but the trust that people are clever enough to get there themselves through work and experience? What if training in trust was what was needed?
What if we create the right environments for people to thrive with the skills they have?
What if training concentrated on bringing together people so they felt less alone?
What if training was specifically designed to bridge gaps between people or groups? If change moves at the speed of relationships, and we want to enable, empower and support Local Government to deliver better services for citizens, then that change needs to come as a cultural and collaborative one.
The stuff that people call ‘soft’ — that’s the stuff that moves things. Digital, organisational, fundamental changes.
I started working on ideas for a new training offering from our team to the Local Government sector. It’s still in the early stages. I’ve set up conversations with some people, I’ve trawled my way through a couple of online learning sites to see what’s out there, and I’m starting to think about a kind of loose curriculum that people might want to work through.
I also started surfacing (on Twitter) some of the things that have come out of conversations recently, and which I’ve noticed at One Team Gov over the years but that I’ve never really thought to question.
Thank you to Annie for sparking this, I hope you haven’t minded me doing it— our conversation was really useful, really interesting and just… well a bit of a tonic I guess.
There was a good discussion on Twitter, and I felt like I created some small space, and it felt like it resonated. Then James suggested #SamsStickies and, well, maybe it’s a thing now.
I realise that sometimes we are building our own languages distinct from those people we are trying to get on board. So when we say certain things, are they actually even clear to people? Or is there some kind of tacit understanding that goes unsaid? If that’s unsaid then it’s unfair. It reflects power structures even if it aims to subvert them.
So I took those twitter conversations and turned them into a trello board, here: https://trello.com/b/BNBByutM/sams-stickies
I went to Nour’s session on facilitating power and privilege sessions, Nour introduced me to Helena Clayton’s quote “Holding the space is a form of love” and I’m interested in what new ways I can find to hold the space.
It was really lovely to hear people talking about the importance of facilitation and how to create safe spaces that make it possible to have these kinds of discussions, to talk about privilege and race and white privilege and saviourism and how we facilitate to deal with that.
Local Gov Camp / Festival of the Future
I had a prep session with Maddie and Holly, ahead of the Local Digital Collaboration Unit, Local Gov Camp takeover on Thursday. It was good, Maddie suggested a couple of changes that really improved it and I’m really grateful for that.
Thursday was Local Gov Camp so all of the morning was taken up with Paul’s keynote and then lightning talks from some of our funded projects.
Afterwards we had the declaration superheroes workshop that I designed and mentioned last week. It went well, we had a small group of really engaged people there and as an idea generation exercise we collected lots of really great stuff.
We will be having a further session with the attendees to take some of the thinking further and I’m looking forward to that.
I had a catch up with Sam from Dorset about my Festival of the Future / Digital Leaders workshop for the Tiger Who Came to Tea next week.
Apparently there are 220 people signed up for it, so I’m looking forward to seeing what 220 people writing stories about their work is like. I’m looking forward to hearing and reading them.
In “one of those things that I didn’t know anything about before I joined the Civil Service” stories: I had never heard of Demos until Alex Krasodomski came to speak with us when I was at the Cabinet Office around 2016. Since then, obviously Jamie Bartlett’s work on Cambridge Analytica etc has been really interesting.
This week I had a catch up with Polly and Jon from Demos who wanted to know a bit more about working with Local Government. Jon mentioned about the name of our team being collaboration and about my job title. I chose this job because of the job title, Collaboration Manager. Jon was from Kings College London looking and thinking about participative democracy.
I need to work on my academic inferiority complex though because I found myself being very self-deprecating and saying “I’m not sure this is what you need or want from me” a lot. I wish I could put that aside. I wish I could just be. I wish I didn’t always feel so intimidated by intelligence. I wish I didn’t feel resentful and fearful of other people’s education.
Education is privilege isn’t it?
And what else?
Here’s my Trello reading list for this week: https://trello.com/b/BBJ726mr/progress-bookmarks
I need to finish up the feedback blog post for the Suicide Prevention event, with huge thanks to Debbie for keeping me facing the right direction when writing this.
I also have two other One Team Gov blog posts to check/edit and get out there, and I want to write another one handing over the reins for OTG blog to whoever else wants it.
Ok I have run out of steam now. Have a lovely weekend x
 Why when you google “empowerment” do you mostly get things about feminism, girl power etc. Doesn’t everyone need empowerment? Is this a gendered word?