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Enabling public servants to succeed

16 January 2023

An image of post-it notes on a table with people pointing to them, showing teamwork.

What it takes to be a 21st century public servant was the topic of discussion at a breakfast briefing held at Cardiff Business School on 13 December 2022.

Sarah Lethridge, Pro Dean of External Engagement at Cardiff Business School, introduced the session and welcomed 3 guest speakers from Monmouthshire County Council. The speakers shared their insights on how to enable public servants to be the best they can be.

Paul Matthews, Chief Executive Officer of Monmouthshire County Council, who has 35 years of experience in the public sector, began the session.

On the subject of being a public servant during times of uncertainty in the world, Paul explained: “I think it's important at the minute that we remind ourselves that to be a public servant is an honour. It requires genius, commitment, a desire to hurt yourselves for others. Because that's what we do, we're always about the 'other'. It’s worth reminding ourselves that in challenging times - that's when we're meant to be at our best. That is when we're meant to be investing in ourselves. That's when we're meant to be holding our love of curiosity and what the world can be.”

Paul discussed the need for clarity and highlighted: “any organisation, any public servant, any team looking to craft a future in my view needs to be nailed on in terms of their purpose.”

He moved on to talk about recruiting to the sector and the need for positive, creative and energetic leadership. Paul added that his job as Chief Executive is to create an environment and space that enables people to flourish and which pulls people towards the sector.

On the topic of how the council could improve, he said: “organisations like mine need to get better at being in touch with the citizens and the communities that they serve. They need to be better at working with, at being activators, at being networked, at being enablers.”

Paul handed over to Lisa Knight-Davies, Head of Organisation Culture Challenge. Lisa touched upon the importance of having cohesion and a collective response within the council.

She explained: “my frustrations are that we're all trying to do the same thing but we're all trying to do it individually.” She said: “our collective is far greater than our individual ability to deliver.” Lisa talked about breaking down barriers and pooling resources.

The final speaker was Owen Wilce, who is Programme Manager at Infuse, Monmouthshire County Council.

He explained that Infuse is an innovation and research programme designed to build skills and capacity for innovative future public services across the Cardiff Capital Region (CCR). Infuse is supported by the European Social Fund through Welsh Government and is a collaboration between Cardiff University, Y Lab, Nesta, CCR and the ten local authorities that make up the region led by Monmouthshire County Council.

Owen said: “Infuse is investing in public servants. It's creating a collision space where some of the sharpest minds from public service crash up against academia and innovation specialists.” Owen showed a video clip of public servants talking about how they have benefitted from being on the Infuse programme.

To close the session, speakers took questions from the audience. Topics included: organisational design, the education sector and the success of the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act.

Watch the full recording of the event.

Cardiff Business School's Breakfast Briefing Series is a network of events, which enables business contacts to find out more about the latest research and key developments from industrial partners.

Related event coming up: join the Infuse team for a facilitated conversation to further our focus on the 21st Century Public Servant. Tuesday 14 February, 09:30 to 11:30 online. Book your free spot.

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