Technology is not enough, we need to talk to one another.

FullSizeRenderRecently I read a blog on the ‘ten most significant cultural trends of the last decade’ by Andy Crouch. His reflections resonated with me in my world of employment and skills. He said, ‘by far the most significant acceleration’ of the last decade was in ‘our technologies of connection’.

The world has become ‘virtually’ connected. Businesses and organisations have embraced technology and social media to reduce costs and improve their reach to both current and potential customers. Through websites such as Linked In, professionals can connect instantaneously.

But despite this increased connection, in the world of service delivery things feel fragmented.

This doesn’t necessarily mean things are not working. Planning and services could all be working fine, although from where most of us reside we are not 100% confident they are.

Is the perception of fragmentation a by-product of increased information sharing, which overloads our busy lives, or is it the amount and speed of changes that has occurred?

Whatever, our working practices have changed and we are no longer encouraged to focus attention on building collaborations or creating local ‘compacts or agreements’. The pace of work requires reduced bureaucracy; time is a precious and the costs of arranging face-to-face network meetings a rare event.

‘With reduced money in the system, we

have prioritised our collaborations considerably’

Working in a small not-for-profit with larger stakeholders in the city, we continue to connect with local partners, as we know that our customers cannot improve their circumstances through our service alone. But with reduced money in the system, we have prioritised our collaborations considerably, and are missing opportunities to improve our situation through ‘thoughtful’ collaborations.

Fragmentation – or the perception of it – may be a side-effect of the large scale changes taking place in local government and services, but perhaps a stronger focus on ‘thoughtful collaborations’ could offer better solutions, and forge better structures and services for our cities and local communities?

Given that local employment partnerships exist, some local authorities are looking for ways to combine their thinking. Therefore, should we not ensure that collaboration is taken seriously again at all levels of planning and service delivery?

Last month local partners and I were lucky enough to set aside some time to consider how we could improve services in our city, particularly focusing on strengthening our local economy. During the conversation we discussed the reasons for our feelings of fragmentation, which ranged from ‘we don’t set aside enough time to look outwards anymore’, to considering cross-organisational working, for example joining up health, housing and employment.

The conversation has begun in Newcastle and perhaps we can be part of the change which bridges private, public and voluntary organisations in the pursuit of innovation and cost-effective solutions for future services. What we do know is that technology alone will not crack this. We need to talk to one another; only then we will know which buttons to press for success.


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