My name is Phil Jewitt. I work for Leeds City Council, one of the councils who contributed to a project to look at the future role of local government. One of the outcomes of this ‘civic enterprise’ project was to ‘devise a new social contract’, explained via this link.

I’ve worked for the council for over 25 years and have seen many changes but I sense this wind of change is different. I know this civic enterprise and social contract work will shape how the council will be different, but to be completely honest, I’ve struggled to fully understand it, and I guess/know others, inside and out won’t either.

My role involves developing social media strategy. Having previously worked on brand strategy and more recent role with the new website, I’m thinking there is an opportunity for more than just social media or digital engagement strategy, and not just limited to the council. I think it would help by starting a conversation/buzz about organisations being more SOCIABLE in how we work and in looking at new ways of working.

I think it would be fair to say we need to explain the concept of civic enterprise, and make it mean something internally and externally in order to grease the wheels for the changes it will bring. Organisations like the council and NHS are huge organisations; cascading any message is a big job, never mind anything complex. Maybe it is about looking at how the little pieces make the bigger piece rather than trying to explain the whole lot. So I’ve kicked it off and am hoping for support to keep it going.

First steps will be to bring together the people and different bits of work that might be included in a ‘sociable organisation’ community of interest. This may take a while but we have people who are well up for it at all levels and ready to try a different way of doing things. We already have projects in organisational development and business change teams working on some of those bits of work.  We have set up a SharePoint collaboration site and discussion forum to create interest including this blog, to bring people together and create a space where we can share what we do and be challenged.  This in itself is a pilot (Trojan mouse) to encourage and see how we might work together across departments on something that actually doesn’t have a project plan, as sometimes they just smother creativity. This is about sparking creative thinking and hopefully creating some social glow. I’m hoping that will encourage more comment here too, in the form of guest posts from people who are involved. And we are exploring what we can do cross organisation too, initially working with NHS and 3rd sector organisations and badged under #HSCLeeds.

So, this blog is really a space where I hope there will be discussion and debate which may help shape what and how a more sociable council and NHS might be (a more sociable city even!) and what the benefits for them and for the people and communities they serve are. It will also be a place where those confusing terms and metaphors like ‘civic enterprise’ and ‘Trojan Mice’ WILL be explained. It will also be a diary of progress.

There is also no reason why these discussions can’t also be had over a coffee or tea, as actually that really is more sociable.

Perhaps this is about better understanding how digital can contribute to how we do things; about learning ‘how’ we are now and what we will need to become. Also it is realisation that it’s not just about shifting to digital as the cheapest communication channel. With changes to welfare reform, people will increasingly want and need to find a place where they feel confident to talk about their problems face to face. It has to be about being sociable.

So in the posts made on this blog, I would be interested to hear people’s views on if, why and how they think public sector organisations can be more ‘sociable’; on things like how we can support/contribute to existing discussions in the city and increasingly be accepted where those discussions may already be; where the views are but perhaps are felt not listened to or acted on?

Is this even the right place to discuss it and is it something you think is worth doing? As a basic minimum, I really hope this blog will help explain things rather than confuse.

This blog does not carry the council or NHS logos. Why not?….it’s a different approach. If it creates a buzz and some dialogue and softens organisational boundaries then great, if there’s no interest, it would be a shame but what have we lost?

If anyone would rather email than leave a comment then please feel free to contact me at phil.jewitt@leeds.gov.uk

Header Photo credit to eating-for-england.com


2 Responses to About

  1. Phil. Nice piece. Very encouraging. Here are a few points to explore….
    Perhaps the council should not spend its time understanding sociability for itself and then explaining it to those of us outside the corporate firewall. The single biggest weakness of the Civic Enterprise report is that it starts from the perspective of the ‘Future of Local Government’, and not the much more interesting ‘Future of Local’. Instead, choose to work with a diverse, open and inclusive group to explore the concepts of civic enterprise and sociability together. Lets develop a shared understanding (social eh?). In the jargon they call this co-creation – which itself has some serious flaws if you are genuinely trying to allow a new social contract to emerge, primarily because you are still setting the agenda rather than partnering with citizens on their emerging agendas – but would still be a major step forward I reckon. Be good perhaps to use the Citizens Panel for this (they may enjoy doing more than responding to questionnaires, I know I would).
    Perhaps put your sharepoint collaboration site outside of the firewall so that we too can join in there. Also perhaps start to explore the difference between reciprocity and generosity, transformation and transaction. Get to the bottom of the kind of social principles that we might choose to bring to our work and the benefits that they might bring.
    Beware starting on ‘social’ from the perspective of the large organisation and how they need to change. Start on the perspective on social of the service user and work your way back….all good service design stuff!
    And finally, as you rightly indicate, this is not about social media or any other technology, but about forging new ways of working across boundaries to secure different impacts in an age of falling investment, rising demand and all sorts of other challenges. Should have it cracked by lunch time….

    • Phil Jewitt says:

      Thanks for the response Mike.
      I’m hoping this blog will create opportunities to work with (create some groups even) a diverse, open and inclusive group to explore the concepts of civic enterprise and sociability.

      In the future we may be able to have SharePoint collaboration sites (or equivalent spaces) bridging the firewall, can’t confirm that but perhaps this blog is the start of creating that discussion space….something to look into as part of this project maybe.

      There are big changes coming for staff with a new intranet and collaboration sites for their projects. This will need some time to get used to but will give momentum to becoming more sociable and in providing a platform for how people will work differently.

      I agree it is an opportunity to explore the difference between reciprocity and generosity, transformation and transaction and get to the bottom of the kind of social principles that we might choose to bring to our work and the benefits that they might bring, so keep responding please.

      And we so will be focussing on ‘social’ from the perspective of the service user and working that backwards.

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