Just over a year ago, two civil servants met at a conference on service design and talked about how government could be different. Better. More like one team regardless of department, profession or personal background. Kit and James may not have realised it then, but with a little help from some friends, their chat would inspire a movement.
That’s what OneTeamGov, the community they co-founded, has become — a movement, one that has already inspired public servants in Sweden and is about to go global. Guided by principles of openness, empathy and taking practical action, OneTeamGov has reached hundreds of people wanting to reform how government works — from right across the UK and from job centre staff and policy folks to Permanent Secretaries. We’ve seen unconferences featuring the most senior civil service leaders, regular breakfast meetups, events in Wales, Scotland and Manchester, and a thriving online community. OneTeamGov is creating the networks, dialogue and confidence required to change how government works.
I’ve been inspired to bring the OneTeamGov principles and its optimistic energy into my day-job, where I support Permanent Secretaries and Directors General to make better use of data in transforming their departments. But to each of us, the movement probably means something different.
Here I’m setting out my own perspective, what #MyOneTeamGov means to me, and encourage you to do the same.
Restless, never satisfied
There are many reasons to think government is less insular, more open, more digital and more diverse than before, but it isn’t as good as it could be. I knew this as a campaigner outside government, and it’s become clearer to me from within: we can’t take better government for granted.
It requires vision, activism and learning throughout all grades, departments, and geographies for government to improve. For me, OneTeamGov’s energy, optimism and disruptive thinking give it a unique place in the ecosystem of formal government bodies, non-governmental organisations, academia and business seeking to improve how government works.
Better by design, not accident
The public sector does improve, but to me it feels like it does so more by accident than design — harsh lessons are learnt after a contract goes sour or lives are put at risk, with reviews from the centre often recommending or mandating new ways of working. What if we could be better by design? More open to smaller failures and calculated risks, so as to secure better outcomes?
For me, this is what OneTeamGov promotes:
- a public sector that tests, fails, learns and renews by design;
- knows itself and the world through data, shared and used to its best;
- puts people and their lived experiences before the traditional structures of the public sector.
Celebrating difference, indifferent to boundaries
There is no one “best” way of doing things. By promoting diversity — not just of personal characteristics but of working practices and of thought, I believe OneTeamGov makes it more likely that the civil service will do right by citizens. Of course what is right in this context is constrained by politics, but given the landscape that Ministers set, public servants are duty-bound to pursue the most effective, inclusive policies and services — which the empathy for users, rejection of cultural or organisational boundaries and boldness of OneTeamGov all encourage.
I’m proud to be a small part of a movement that is fast becoming the catalyst for collective action. More than anything, OneTeamGov recognises that alone each of us cannot change ingrained power structures, incentives or systems — but that together we can be the very change we wish to see, and make government better.
That’s #MyOneTeamGov — what’s yours?