Did you do anything interesting last Friday? I spent the day in prison with Sir Bob Kerslake. That’s to say, I went along to HMP Kirkham, joining other civil servants who met him during his visit to the north west of England, at which he shared the message of Reform.
‘Two jobs Bob’, as he confided the Secretary of State calls him, is both Permanent Secretary at the Department for Communities and Local Government and Head of the Civil Service. His conviction that the modern Civil Service be increasingly in touch with the communities it serves – immediately apparent as he spoke – provided a perfect bridge to span the two roles.
I don’t know what I expected, but to me, Sir Bob was pretty “cool” – bang on trend with his beard, and chatting in his friendly Somerset burr, Sir Bob wouldn’t look out of place at Glastonbury.
He spoke of reform, climate change, the sharing of skills and resources – and of breaking down barriers between departments.
Setting out his vision for a more open culture within a Civil Service that listens, learns, is not afraid of challenge or criticism and which positively encourages creativity and innovation, he expressed a personal passion for open communication ‘in both directions’. Might we see this as an end to the one-way ‘cascade’ or deliver levels of staff engagement which have eluded the annual survey?
Sir Bob’s acknowledgement that this vision is a continuing work in progress stands as a challenge for all to take a firm grasp on the Reform’s agenda and help make it a reality. Several of those who attended the event are already doing just that, taking part in such programmes as Going Forward (preparing prisoners near release for re-integration into the community) and Engaging our Schools (helping young people to achieve their potential by raising aspirations and awareness of the world of work).
Come back soon to this blog-site to find videos from the day where colleagues highlight how, by volunteering for Civil Service Local programmes, they have enhanced their skills and career prospects whilst serving their local communities in very real, hands-on ways. Then, maybe, consider being part of this revolution yourself. It can even get you out of the office; certainly out of ‘the box’.
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