A blank page is always intimidating, especially when you have to write about yourself and why you’re putting yourself out there, but the anticipation is usually worse than the thing itself so here goes…
I’ve spent all of my career in the voluntary sector and public sector, and like so many people, my motivation for doing so was ‘to help make things better’. I’ve spent the last 4 years or so as a civil servant in the Office for Civil Society for exactly that reason, and I will shortly be leaving will continue to try and make a difference from outside of central government.
In my time I have worked in both service delivery and policy, switching from one to the other. When I’m working in policy I miss the frontline and when actually delivering services I get frustrated at my inability to change the bigger picture stuff.
So what is the bigger picture stuff at the moment? Well, my policy lead at OCS, and before that in the Office for the Third Sector, has been Local Government, so much of what I say is from that perspective. I normally explain this more by describing it as ‘how local government and the voluntary sector can work better together’. This has meant working on Total Place, on the excellent Partnership Improvement Programme, contributing to the National Commissioner Training Programme, working with IpsosMORI on the National Survey of Charities & Social Enterprises and among many other things.
Other more venerated commentators have discussed at length the merits of the Big Society concept, so for now I’ll just observe that for the voluntary, community, social enterprise and mutual sector(s) the opportunities lie in proving their ability to work with others to deliver both the innovation and the cost savings that can help make transformative improvements to public services. The challenge, of course, and this is in no way meant to be glib, lies in surviving long enough to be able to do so and having public sector partners willing to do things differently.
But for those that do make it, and who choose to go down this route, the public sector is opening up. For me, one of the most interesting and exciting windows that are opening is the drive to publish more local (and central) government data – the interesting bit lies in what can be done with that data. How do we bring different sources of data and information together? Different perspectives? How do we make it really useful? There’s some fantastic work emerging from places like OpenlyLocal, and the Local Government Association, to its credit, is leading the way in setting out how Councils can do open data well.
My first foray into where the worlds of open data and local activism collide will be this weekend, at CityCamp Brighton. More on that tomorrow.