Quote of the week
“Networking is not about hunting. It is about farming. It’s about cultivating relationships.”
— Dr. Ivan Misner
Public sector governance and accountability are essentially vertical, while public policy decisions and implementation require working across silos, working horizontally. Every organization has its own culture, its own trusted networks that develop along the lines established by the organization’s formal scheme: ministries, central agencies, policy divisions, corporate service divisions, regional operations versus headquarter structures.
Connecting across these silos requires skills that are not easily taught. But they can be developed through practice – and encouraged by senior public sector executives. It starts with a person’s understanding that it is worth the effort; that, in fact, it is the only way modern government can function.
The Canada-Ontario Memorandum of Agreement on Collaboration in the Delivery of Public Service established in 2004 and the subsequent Canada-Ontario Statement on Collaboration on Public Service Renewal and Service Delivery in 2007 were responsible for over $5.75B of program initiatives. Key to these agreements were the roles various networks played: between provincial ministries, federal departments and little known organizations such as the Ontario Federal Council (OFC) and the Provincial Interministry Council (PIC) in Ontario.
These were and are informal organizations that facilitate the networks required within and between jurisdictions, particularly at a regional operations level. OFC and PIC maintained strong networks even when the politics in Ottawa and Toronto were not the most amicable.
Strong networks in public service are required to bridge challenges at the political level for the good of all citizens and, in the end, are appreciated by politicians when undertaken in a professional, non-partisan manner.
Networks established through the Institute for Public Administration in Canada and the like are now being supplemented by young professional networks such as TOPS (Tomorrow’s Ontario Public Service).
Is networking different between this new generation and the last? The use of technology and social networking tools are certainly new, but in many ways networking is still the same: sustainable relationships are built on face-to-face contact, perhaps over coffee (or scotch), and over time through interdependence, trust and a shared vision among passionate public servants wishing to broaden their horizons and becoming part of the vital few that can make things happen.