The business of a local authority is complex. When you look at the recently approved Council Delivery Plan, it gives you a sense of the diversity of services, programmes and projects which the organisation is involved in and the varied work of our colleagues.
From closing education attainment gaps and tackling food poverty to reviewing adult protection and increasing flexible childcare provision right through to pioneering hydrogen technology and introducing a cycle hire scheme the remit is incredibly wide ranging.
Given that diversity, is it possible to find a unifying purpose which can bind us all together?
We often talk about being “one team” but to feel a member of a team you have to have a sense of belonging together in order to achieve a common purpose.
I believe we can have a common purpose and it is captured in the recently approved Local Outcome Improvement Plan. It states that the purpose of the partnership is to “ensure that the people, place and economy of Aberdeen prosper”.
Prosperity doesn’t simply mean being financially prosperous – it can refer to our wellbeing, a state of peace and harmony.
I think this definition of purpose, can be something that unifies us within Aberdeen City Council too. If we align ourselves to this purpose, instead of aligning ourselves to our professions, our defined job profiles and organisational clusters, then we’ll all have something that binds us together regardless of where we are in the organisation.
Of course, it’s an inevitable feature of life, that the state of prosperity for individuals, families, communities and cities is not guaranteed and life, societal and environmental events happen which put that state of prosperity at jeopardy. For example, the loss of a job can have a detrimental effect on a family and put at risk the ability to feed, shelter and keep loved ones safe. Environmental events, like significant flooding, can result in major damage to property as well as risk to life.
In the event of such harmful events occurring, I believe our role is to first of all help rescue the people and place from that harm and to then help with the road to recovery. In fact, in civil contingency law, we have duties placed on us as a local authority to act as a “Category 1” responder to play our part in rescue and recovery, for example, in the event of severe weather or terrorist attacks.
So, our common purpose can be defined as: “To ensure that the people, place and economy of Aberdeen prosper, but in the event of a harmful event, to play our part in the rescue and recovery from that harm”.
Going back to those earlier examples of the diversity of what we’re involved in – it’s possible to see how each contributes to the common purpose.
Protecting the people and place from harm comes in lots of different forms, from the vital work we do in schools and through our social work teams as well as in the growing early intervention initiatives and right through to the infrastructure investment and introduction of technology to prevent and respond to severe weather.
Equally, there are lots of ways in which we as a Council help the city to prosper. From developing the economy of Aberdeen by staging events and creating world class facilities such as The Event Complex Aberdeen and redeveloped Aberdeen Art Gallery through to our work in sustainable transport and technologies.
As you know we’ve been doing a lot of work on a new behaviour framework and this has been submitted to the Staff Governance Committee for approval when it meets on March 18. The report can be viewed here and I’d encourage everyone to read it.
Within the framework, one of the general principles being proposed is about “caring for our purpose”. My challenge to you is to share in a purpose that’s focused on helping the people, place and economy of Aberdeen to prosper but, in the event of a harmful situation, be part of a team who cares enough to play its part in the rescue and recovery. We all have a big role to play.