We need more people solving problems – not professionals.
Everyone has a story to tell, everyone has strengths beneath the conceptions that you have of them. But if you’re curious enough, you may just find that the answers you’ve always been looking for are there, often right beside you. – William Lilley
Everywhere you look at the beginning of 2015 you will see a crisis.
In case you missed it there is currently a crisis in Accident and Emergency Units which is part of the wider health crisis. There’s a housing crisis as well. And a crisis in social care , unemployment , education and policing. Not forgetting the welfare crisis which is wreaking havoc on millions.
There’s crisis everywhere.
The current trend in mainstream politics , and on social media , is to talk of Britain as broken. And then we act all surprised and outraged when people turn to parties like UKIP who hark back to a golden age that never truly existed.
People are so sick of hearing about crisis they lose faith and begin searching for someone who appears to offer a more compelling vision. Who can blame them?
Except if you scratch the service on any of those things you’ll find the crisis label to be untrue, or misleading at the very least.
What we have is an excess of demand over supply and deeply dysfunctional systems.
Most of our public services were designed pre-decimal never mind pre-digital.
We really shouldn’t be surprised they aren’t fit for purpose.
The problem lies with the people who created those systems and who work within them. Us.
Over new year I had a break at one of the Red Sea resorts seeking a bit of winter sun along with scores of pasty faced Europeans.
One of the benefits of being locked into an all-inclusive euro-mashup is you have some very random conversations with people we are told are hugely different to us , but are of course not.
The best conversation I had was with an Italian guy and one of our Egyptian hosts.
We were talking about the various crises our countries are experiencing and the role of communities.
Sal was telling us of the boom in the ‘suspended coffee’ movement in Italy. The concept is pretty simple: You walk into a coffee shop, and instead of buying just one cup of coffee you also buy one (or more) for someone in need. Your get yours and the second coffee is “suspended”. It can be claimed or given out by the barista to people they think deserving. I always believed that the movement was a modern viral phenomenon but Sal told us it was a Neapolitan tradition that originated in World War II. The principle is that in a time of hardship, Italians can lack many things, but not coffee!
Ahmad told us about the rise of the “Town Helper” in parts of Cairo and Alexandria. Because of the huge drain of young men to work in the Red Sea resorts many of the families left behind face a significant skills gap. These guys work incredibly long hours with hardly anytime off. When they do get a few days off – every few weeks – they return to their families for precious time with loved ones. To make sure they spend the maximum time with their families they fund , largely through tips from tourists , a number of people to do tasks whilst they are away from home. Each Helper , is shared between a number of families , to plug the gaps that have been left in communities.
I talked of the growth of Food Banks in the UK which we largely view as a sign of failure but actually speak of tremendous generosity – of communities looking after their own. I don’t pretend to give lots, I just throw a few things in the collection on every visit to the supermarket – to the extent that I’ve actually stopped thinking about it. It’s just a little pay it forward gesture that millions of us are doing without prompting. I also told them of the Bromford Deal and how we are embarking on a huge cultural shift to unlock potential in people rather than seeing ourselves as professional rescuers.
I talked of how the Deal is – at its essence – a belief that people don’t exist in a state of need and can do amazing things if we empower them and step out of the way.
Due to excess brandy the conversation veered off in all sorts of directions: but the important thing is we all agreed that some of the best initiatives don’t come from Government. None of the above did.
For many years we’ve built infrastructure and services that people neither need or want. We make interventions without outcomes. We produce reports that have no readers.
We must ask ourselves how we became so removed from the people we were set up to serve.
Our communities are not in crisis.
There is a massive untapped reservoir of skill and talent that we chose to ignore because we thought we could do it better as professionals.
Let’s put it right.