I’ve worked in central government for the last 4 years and have been impressed, exhilarated, stimulated, surprised and crushed by the experience in roughly equal measures. Having spent the majority of what I laughingly call my career in the local voluntary sector trying to make a difference, the thing that really drove me to work in central government was making a difference nationally to the structures that surround (and either support or restrict) the way charities and local government work together. How successful I’ve been is a post for another day, and one perhaps is better suited to the therapists couch then public airing…
The reason that I’m leaving central government is that the power really is moving toward local areas, communities, neighbourhoods. Or rather, the opportunity for power to move is there, but it is only going to actually shift if we grab it ourselves. And it’s going to need a good old yank and a lot of determination to make it a permanent change.
The good news is that there are more tools, data and general willingness than ever before from the top of the Coalition Government to our own local Council. Love him or loathe him, Eric Pickles is right behind this one, saying “Getting council business out in the open will revolutionise local government”. Brighton & Hove Chief Executive, John Barradell, is first up on Friday afternoon and I’m particularly interested in what will say in his speech. BHCC is simultaneously very keen on opening up its data, but gets a naughty red cross from OpenlyLocal for not being very open at all.
The not-so-good news is that while there is now a vast amount of local government data out there, without context it’s basically just a great big jumble of numbers. However, I have a hunch that this data can be used to great effect by the voluntary and public sectors if we can work out the right ways of combining local government spend and demographic data with voluntary sector service provision data and expertise. If you add this to the ‘softer’ side of knowing your area, the long experience of front line workers and some thoughtful community engagement, the potential for making a real difference with increasingly scarce resources is huge. I’m looking forward to meeting some likeminds and having a go at making it happen.