I’m still recovering from the most recent Local Government Challenge but thought it would be good to write down some of my thoughts to reflect on what I learnt during this experience.
As I had not yet put myself forward as team leader of a challenge and, with only two more rounds to go, I had mentally prepared myself in advance to step forward as leader for this one. I thought it would be mentally better to choose to be leader instead of being left with no option but to lead!
It was a beautiful journey to the location of this challenge but soon after arriving at the West Suffolk HQ in Bury St Edmonds, we were put to work and given our brief:
The Mildenhall Hub project is an ambitious partnership initiative, linked to the Government’s One Public Estate Programme, to rationalise and improve the public estate in Mildenhall for the benefit of local people through a unique new building, opening in 2019. It has the ability to bring together a library, school, job centre plus, a gym along with many other services. The LG challenge teams will be expected to research the ‘hub host’ model and shared space and produce a set of new principles for the Mildenhall Hub team to take forward in their design work. The teams will be expected to support their findings by identifying the issues and opportunities they have spotted and outcomes that could be achieved, both in terms of improved customer journeys and budget savings.
My first reactions were:
ok…so this is not something I am an expert in, but I’ve got some great people on the team and my experience so far has been that the team leader has done their job well not by doing the work but by coordinating the team and allowing each person to shine their brightest.
This was something I felt I could do, so I took the plunge and stepped forward to lead the challenge.
It was such an amazing, stretching and fulfilling experience to lead Team Pioneer and come up with some guiding principles we really felt could have a positive impact on the hub. The people we met were extraordinary and the potential for the hub really captured our hearts over the course of the two days. The guiding principles we presented to the panel were:
Take more risks
If the leaders of the hub aren’t prepared to be bold and do things that have never been done before, the hub will never truly realise its full potential.
To get to a place where the leaders are willing to take risks, we suggested an appreciative inquiry be set up to get back to basics and re-establish a guiding vision for the hub.
Innovate the Hub Host model
Hub Hosts are those who will greet people arriving in the hub. We argued that there shouldn’t be a reception desk but instead an apple genius-style set-up where volunteers greet visitors, directing them through to the services, supporting them to access information online or funneling them through to trained staff if their needs are more acute or pressing.
We felt the hub needed to be fully integrated – one form, one face, one point of contact – in order for it to fully realise the benefits of bringing services together. This means all services should be accountable for what happens in the hub and a true sense of community built within the building – this could be everyone in the hub participating in ‘school non-uniform day’ or the adoption of 1 form so members of the community are not made to fill out different forms to join each of the services in the building.
Human centered design
The colours, textures, smell and feel of a place has a profound impact on how we behave. We suggested the hub should be designed not with the structure at the heart of it but the people. Think of how you react when you look at a blue sky compared with grey overcast clouds…we want the hub to bring the psychology of buildings to the forefront of those planning its design.
Create a destination
Instead of the hub being a place for just those with acute needs, we wanted it to become the centre of the community – a place for all to work, study, play and lead a rich and fulfilling life. For this to become a reality, the community must come first, and early intervention must be prioritised so that all members of the community become active citizens and are enabled to give back.
My experience of leading this team was mixed – we had some strong personalities and I felt that my inexperience in line management made me sometimes doubt how well I was in my role of team leader. However, my experience of the Local Government Challenge to date has taught me to trust my gut and I feel I have made massive leaps of progress in having faith in my abilities through talking to myself kindly and being my own best friend. Instead of dwelling on what I could do better, I celebrated things that had gone well and told myself “you can do it” at each step of the way. Not focusing on where I felt weak made all the difference to my experience as well as to the team’s outcome.
It was on the morning of the presentation, through positive self-talk, that I realised this project was playing to my strengths because even if it was about a building, it was really about culture change and that I can talk about in spades. It was at this moment that everything clicked into place and I felt confident in our ideas.
So, I know what you’re all dying to know….did we win?!
YES WE DID!!!!!! I was so shocked and overwhelmed with happiness when I heard the news that team pioneer was the winner of this round, having convinced myself that the judges feedback pointed to the other team being victorious. It has now been a few days since the challenge and I have somewhat overcome my shock and am left with overwhelming pride of what we achieved and how I stepped up to lead this team to victory.
In terms of learning and things I want to work on going forward, this round of the Local Government Challenge has brought up feelings of discomfort that my winning means other people miss out and don’t win. In this way, the experience was a little bitter-sweet as I know the other group had also given their all and were worthy of a win. It was the same with the third challenge when Team Pioneer finally won. I’ve not truly put my finger on why I feel like this and the impact this has on a wider scale in my personal and work life, but it’s something I want to work on.
Regardless of this, with 2 wins in my back pocket, I can’t wait for the next challenge and will to put all my determination and willpower into hopefully becoming a finalist of the Local Government Challenge.