Strength within

This morning I spoke to an opera singer, a foster carer, a family historian and the founder of one of the biggest social media networks in the country. This is pretty remarkable considering I was only sat at my desk. What’s even more remarkable is all these people worked within the same small office here at Leeds City Council.

As a local authority, we are keen to encourage civic enterprise and help creative thinking people in our city. While looking outside our organisation however, we mustn’t overlook the potential skill and creativity of those within; call it civic ‘intraprise’ if you like. We public sector workers tend to be public-spirited and are often the very same people we talk about when we mention ‘civic entrepreneurs’. Perhaps the time has come to make better use of our talent as we have much to share with others.

So a few of us have decided to start something called OWLS (Our Workplace Learning and Socials). OWLS aims to encourage, support and develop staff skills networks and social groups for the benefit of individuals, the council and beyond. It is not about running activities and events for others, but rather a way of encouraging and supporting people to get together around shared interests. Being more sociable.

We are encouraging staff at the council to share their skills and help each other to learn. The first step is getting people together for a chat, perhaps even via social media, to find out what they would like to get involved in, learn about and do.  We have provided a staff discussion forum for staff who run groups that others may not know about to promote them. We are also looking for suggestions for what staff might like to do or learn.

So if staff want to find out about fostering? They could spend an hour talking to colleagues who do it already. They will tell them all about the highs, lows and reality of the role. And why shouldn’t all those staff who foster have the opportunity to get together and share stories and support each other.

Why not get those opera singers together to start a choir? (there might be more of them than you think).

We might have staff who would love to learn how to edit videos they take on their smart phones or who want to start blogging. Why shouldn’t they set up a workshop with the people who already have these skills or create a book or film or blog club.

These are just a few examples of how we can actively seek out and share expertise within our organisations. There will be many people with amazing, inspiring experience and skills to share. And the thing is they usually love to talk about and share what they are passionate about with others.

More information on how this initiative is progressing at the council will be posted soon.

Who’s sitting next to you in your organisation?

The future is definitely social.

Kay Sidebottom
Member Development Officer
Leeds City Council


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