Quote of the week
“I encourage you to get involved in helping to shape the future of the Public Service.”
— Clerk of the Privy Council
Rethinking public administration, the theme of this year’s annual IPAC conference, was timely.
The scope of the challenge facing our public institutions – and public servants as a group – is enormous. How can we turn these huge institutions around while maintaining service, a quality workforce, and credibility?
To get there, the Clerk of the Privy Council has launched Blueprint 2020. There was a panel on this initiative at the IPAC 2013 conference which is worth commenting on.
While the Clerk has given signals about what he thinks change is about (such as collaboration), he seems to understand that the challenge is much bigger. In his speech at IPAC, he referred to the importance of culture change, and on this he is bang on. This is how the scope of the challenge will be met.
Through the process he has launched, there has been a flurry of activity within the government. Some is formalized, such as the proposals that will be developed by departments and functional communities.
But the use of social media that the Clerk insisted upon has meant that individual public servants can get involved one-on-one. And as part of the consultative process, it is obviously less formalized and much faster than the departmental and community ones.
It is also part of the culture change that needs to happen.
Louise Levonian, Associate DM at Finance and champion for the project, noted that key themes are emerging already. They include the need for improved information sharing, connecting inside and outside the public service, setting up innovation labs, and using technology to reduce red tape and improve results.
This project is not the first internal, Clerk-directed project aimed at reforming the federal public service: think of PS 2000 or La Releve. Ken Rasmussen of the University of Regina said Blueprint 2020 extends the autonomy of the public service to reform itself, and questioned how successful earlier exercises had been in making changing happen in the trenches.
Blueprint 2020 has the potential to be different. First, because the Clerk gets it; he understands the magnitude of the challenge the public service faces. Second, because the use of social media has opened the door to involvement and participation of individual public servants.
Of course, it has also raised expectations for real change, a real reinvention of the public service. Rasmussen wondered if this would lead to an “Arab Spring” led by public servants. Levonian noted that a significant measure of success will be the ability of the government to take “measured action” on what it hears.