The 21st Century Public Servant

Posted on Thursday 15th May 2014

 This is a Knowledge Exchange project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council in partnership with Birmingham City Council.

We are looking at the skills, values and identities of the future public service workforce.

At a Round table event in Birmingham in November 2012, we brought people working in public service leadership together to discuss these issues. Participants described the challenges of encouraging workers to be entrepreneurial and collaborative in conditions of austerity and organisational shrinkage. ‘The skills we are teaching people in local government are not the ones they need’ as one participant put it. Despite the wealth of materials available on future public services, career development and training resources were felt to be underdeveloped or disconnected from broader debates.

Our aim is to make these connections, and to produce materials that are useful for people planning their own career development within public services, as well as for strategic leads and human resource directors. We know that the term public servant isn’t ideal. It sounds outdated and too narrow to encompass people working outside the public sector. Our aim is to be inclusive, to produce materials that are relevant for all people who work in public services, whether in the public, private or third sectors. We haven’t come up with a better term for those people than public servant although we are interested in hearing suggestions on this topic.

We started by looking at the academic and policy literature on public service change and how change is impacting on people working in these services.

21st century public service workforceHere we summarise eight lessons from that literature:    

The Twenty First Century Public Servant- Eight Lessons from the Literature published (PDF 307KB)

More information

You can find out more about the project on our blog: http://21stcenturypublicservant.wordpress.com/

We are:

Catherine Needham, Reader in Public Management and Public Policy at the Health Services Management Centre, University of Birmingham @DrCNeedham

Catherine Mangan, Senior Fellow at the Institute of Local Government Studies, University of Birmingham @mangancatherine

Helen Dickinson, Associate Professor of Public Governance, Melbourne School of Government and School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Melbourne @DrHDickinson

Twenty-first century public servant Summary of roundtable discussion (PDF 536KB) (27 November 2012)