One (cycling) team, one council, one city!

16/0519 Tour Series 2019A group of intrepid colleagues will be showing the one team principle in a whole new light today when they take to the streets as part of the OVO Energy Tour Series.

Flying the flag for the Council in the corporate race are Sandie Scott, Phil Astley, Janet McRoberts and Barbara Jones – good luck to team ACC!

The city centre is a hive of activity this morning as it’s is transformed into a cycling hub, with activities running from noon right through to the start of the elite races that get underway with the women’s event at 5.30pm.

The corporate competition is part of the support programme, with age group and amateur categories on the 1.3km circuit from noon, and our team will be on the start line at around 2.20pm for anyone who is keen to cheer them on.

They’ll do us proud and will surely come through with fewer bumps and strains than the Council football team that fell to a gallant one goal defeat against Police Scotland counterparts last week. It’s the taking part that counts, at least that’s what the football team tell me!

The Tour Series route this year starts and finishes on Broad Street, showcasing the incredible event space that has been created, and takes riders down Upperkirkgate and onto Schoolhill before looping back through Back Wynd and Belmont Street to head back along Union Street to the home straight past the Town House and Marischal College.

The organisers take the Tour Series to towns and cities across Britain and have been vocal in their praise of the Aberdeen crowds, with thousands turning out over the past two years. Here’s hoping for similar support today and this evening – and more of the sunshine that was a feature of the Aberdeen leg in 2017 and 2018.

Tour Series 2019

Digital skills and numeracy in the spotlight

I’m delighted the Council will be lending its support to Digital Skills Week (May 13-17) and National Numeracy Day (May 15), with lots of opportunities for everyone to get involved.

The programme for the digital week can be found here and includes events, showcases and drop-in sessions.

Digital skills are the foundation the Council of the future is being built upon and this week is a good chance to shine a light on the way we’re all changing and adapting –  I hope every week will be a digital skills week going forward!

National Numeracy Day promotes skills that are also central to so many of the tasks we carry out as a Council day to day. At its heart there’s a challenge to test your ability with a view to learning and developing. You can find out more here, with links to useful resources.

Both Digital Skills Week and National Numeracy Day are part of growing national campaigns and I’d encourage as many people to take some time to explore the resources available and to support these two initiatives.

A lunch invite with a difference!

The Clean Up Aberdeen campaign for 2019 will be launched next week and it’s the perfect opportunity to recognise a fantastic initiative.

Steven Shaw and his team join forces each year with volunteers, community groups, schools and many more organisations and individuals to do exactly what it says on the tin!

Clean Up Aberdeen involves everything from litter picks around schools and parks to beach clean-ups and everything in between and it’s a great example of the Council working together with others to make a difference to the city.

The launch at the Beach Ballroom on March 21 will involve 16 schools, with young people from across the city getting the opportunity to ask important questions of a panel comprising representatives from the Council and other organisations with a litter and recycling theme.

More schools than ever before are taking part in Clean Up Aberdeen, with a range of challenges to choose from.

There will be a clean-up following on from the launch, with the pupils and teachers leading the way.

That’s where Council employees can get involved and join the lunch-time clean-up, starting from the Ballroom. If you’re interested in taking part, the intention is to start at 12.30pm and all are welcome.

Steven is the best point of contact if you’re keen to find out more about Clean Up Aberdeen opportunities through the year. My thanks go to Steven and his dedicated teams for their efforts, not to mention the pupils and volunteers who continue to make it a project to be proud of.

 

Your success matters to me

In these times of significant change, both communication and engagement are important. I hope the various blog posts are helpful in term of keeping everyone informed.

We’re certainly seeing lots of staff engagement at the moment. Whether its staff engaging in the design of the new behaviour framework,  putting cost saving ideas forward for the budget or being involved in one of the many transformation projects – it’s fantastic to see. By being involved and engaged, I believe it will increase our sense of control as we continue through our change journey.

Understandably some colleagues may be questioning the need  for and value  of a new behaviour framework. There’s plenty of evidence that shows that most transformation efforts fail because the organisations have not aligned the organisational culture to the hopes and ambitions of the transformation programmes.

Our transformation programme, has identified seven capabilities that we need to build across the organisation if we are to fully realise the benefits of the target operating model.

The draft behaviour framework is deliberately aligned to these seven organisational capabilities. Work is already underway on developing a capability framework for us as staff and, again, this is being aligned completely to the seven organisational capabilities.

So the work on the behaviour framework is a deliberate attempt to try and influence the culture of our organisation. The alignment between our culture and our transformation, will increase our chances of success in ensuring we are a council fit for the 21st century, living within the financial means afforded to us.

I’d like to take the opportunity to thank everyone who has shaped the behaviour framework and we’ll certainly be presenting your views to the staff governance committee in March when we ask members for their approval.

Once approved, the behaviour framework will then be a feature of everyone’s personal objectives and performance appraisals. It will be down to us to live up to the principles we adopt.

I regularly read  the ideas put forward by staff on the Ideas Hub and there’s certainly no shortage of them. It’s a great platform and if you haven’t tried it out, I’d encourage you to do so – whether that’s by sharing your own idea or simply liking someone else’s suggestion. Give it a go!

I’ve been reading closely the thread of comments on the Star Awards. I hope the concerns about wasting public resource have been allayed by the confirmation that the event is sponsored.

In my mind, the team of volunteers who drive the star awards are incredibly selfless and are entirely motivated by the act of recognising the contribution our colleagues make to the city.  These colleagues are continuing to deliver their formal day jobs and have volunteered their own time to deliver the awards. I’m sure the comments are not intended to sound ungrateful for the commitment these volunteers continue to show and I’d like to repeat my previous thanks to all those colleagues,  past and present,  who have supported the event.

Having said that, I do have some sympathy with the comments being expressed by colleagues. In these challenging financial times, particularly when we are having to reduce our workforce, I can see why colleagues might be nervous about the appropriateness of and perceptions of us celebrating.

Given the long term financial outlook our sector faces however,  if we align our choices about championing staff success to our financial fortunes, we may never be in the position to celebrate. That sits uncomfortably with me personally but also flies in the face of what staff have said in response to the staff surveys of 2014, 2016 and the current engagement on the behaviour principles – where there has been a resounding message about recognising and appreciating staff.

We must not allow ourselves as a workforce to be defined entirely by our continuing financial pressures or challenges, but instead to be defined by how we are continuing to deliver services within this context.

I think it’s important that we all feel responsible for each other’s success and that we want to be a part of celebrating those achievements. This sense of shared responsibility for the good work we do is critical to creating the culture we need in order to be successful as an organisation.

It is important to hear the views of all those who wish to share an opinion because, of course, there may be different ways to support each other’s success and to celebrate it.  It  takes courage to express views in the way colleagues have on this matter,  so thank you for doing that.  Both disagreement and agreement represent engagement and I appreciate the contributions.

This is an important  issue that we need to navigate together. So I’d like to offer to meet a range of colleagues with different views on the star awards and let’s see what, together, we can agree are ways to support, encourage and celebrate each others success. I’d also like to invite our trade union colleagues to participate in the discussion.

I know the challenge many will face in engaging in a face to face conversation due to work patterns, so I’ll ask Isla Newcombe (Chief Officer for People and Organisation) to arrange a selection of different sessions as well as an online way to engage in discussing a range of alternatives. Details will follow and I look forward to reporting back on the next steps.

 

Our Guiding Principles – have your say

With one week left to have your say, I’d encourage everyone to take part in shaping the Council’s Guiding Principles.

If you haven’t already you can find out more in a blog and a vlog post from Isla Newcombe,  Chief Officer for Organisational Development, or go ahead and take part in the survey.

Our Guiding Principles will give a shared sense of what it means to work for Aberdeen City Council.

More than ever we need to be working together and pulling in the same direction. The Principles will give voice to the otherwise unwritten rules that help us to offer challenge and support to each other at every level – and to the way decisions are made and the processes that are in place. They will help us to deliver the transformation that we need to meet the challenges we face now and continue to face into the future. Most importantly they will have been created by us all.

Around 800 people from teams across the organisation were involved in shaping the themes and now it’s incredibly important that you have your say before the Principles are finalised.

My thanks go to all who have played a part so far, with every contribution valued, and I look forward to sharing the final version with you towards the end of March.

Help share the message about Aberdeen’s need for more foster carers and adoptive parents

We are indebted to an incredible network of foster carers and adoptive parents in Aberdeen who nurture and support the young people of all ages and backgrounds who fall under their wing.

They make a real and lasting difference not just to the lives of individuals but to our communities and the city as a whole, providing care and comfort to children who are unable to remain with their birth families.

My heartfelt thanks go to all those who have taken the step and joined what is a very special group of Aberdeen carers. You can read some of the personal stories here.

The reality is we have more children in need of care than we can cater for and often this results in placements outside of the city, which can cause obvious difficulties for children and their families.

It’s a source of great frustration for frontline colleagues who want only the best outcome for every young person, with colleagues working hard each year to encourage more people locally to consider fostering and adoption.

As a Council we’re here to protect and care for the people of the city and there are lots of ways we can all play our part.

A fresh drive is currently underway and that’s something we can all help to support – whether it something you are interested in exploring from a personal perspective or perhaps an opportunity friends, family or colleagues may be keen to embrace.

I will be doing what I can to spread the word and I’d encourage everyone to do the same. Word of mouth, through clubs and groups or sharing the Council’s social media posts  will all help.

If together we can bring even a single foster carer or adoptive parent into the Aberdeen family then we will have made a difference to at least one young person in a time of need.

Colleagues in the Alternative Family Care team need our support to attract carers for all age ranges as well as for sibling groups and for children with additional needs. In return they offer a great deal of support and training, with foster carers receiving a competitive financial package for playing such a vital role.

To find out more please visit the adoption and fostering web pages or contact the team at adoptfostrecruitment@aberdeencity.gov.uk .

 

Sleep in the Park puts homelessness in focus

As a Council we deal with incredibly tough and challenging issues every hour of every day. Homelessness is one that looms large on that list.

The most basic of human needs – to have shelter and all that brings – is something we all tend to take for granted.

The reality for so many in our city and throughout Britain is very different. For an organisation which exists to protect the people and place from harm, continuing our work to prevent and reduce homelessness is imperative.

As with so many of the problems we face, the Council cannot act alone. We are forging strong partnerships with agencies and organisations locally and nationally as we work towards common aims, with the third sector playing a major role.

Social Bite is one of the charities doing a power of work and we’re delighted to be supporting the Sleep in the Park initiative, which will bring thousands of people and four cities together on December 8.

In Aberdeen we’ll gather in Duthie Park for the north-east event, running from early evening through to the following morning.

Sleep in the Park

The sleep out will raise awareness and crucially funds to support Social Bite’s work, with a £4million target across Scotland this year.

A number of councillors have signed-up, with myself and Derek McGowan, Chief Officer for Early Intervention and Community Empowerment, as well as Martin Murchie, Chief Officer for Business Intelligence and Performance Management, amongst the staff taking part.

We both have fundraising pages set up (click here for my page, here for Martin’s and this link for Derek’s) for anyone who wishes to support. If you’re registered and would be keen to promote your fundraising page through my blog please send a link to ChiefExec@aberdeencity.gov.uk and we will get those added.

A team of teachers and youth workers at Hazlehead Academy have joined the list, with fundraising details here.

A huge thank you to everyone who has already donated, your support is very much appreciated.

If you’re interested in taking part, all the information can be found at the Sleep in the Park website.

One night out in the open for those of us taking part doesn’t begin to give an insight into the very real crisis faced by the individuals and families we serve who are affected by homelessness, but in a small way offers the opportunity to help draw attention to the issue and contribute to the efforts to provide lasting solutions. Thank you in advance to all those supporting Social Bite’s initiative.

 

Simplyhealth Great Aberdeen Run returns to the starting blocks

On Sunday August 26th thousands of runners will throng the city centre, preparing to set off on the Simplyhealth Great Aberdeen Run.

Later that day entrants will return to Union Street. Tired and sore but joyous.

I’m proud to say that dozens of Aberdeen City Council colleagues have already signed up to take on the 13.1 mile route round the city.

As a Council we value the transformative power of sport and the role physical activity plays in improving wellbeing.

The Simplyhealth Great Aberdeen Run, entering its second year, is very much a team effort.

The event is delivered in partnership with Aberdeen City Council, VisitAberdeenshire, Aberdeen Inspired, and Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce, and The Great Run Company.

Dozens of volunteers help make the run happen.

Some entrants will be chasing best times and the quickest will have an eye on the top prizes but what impresses most is the camaraderie and infectious enthusiasm across the field and among spectators.

Everyone really does pull as one.

There may be a common goal in completing the half-marathon, 10k or the Family Run (and a medal and T-shirt for everyone!) but there’s a group prize too – the win for Aberdeen itself.

Last year’s event showcased the city in new ways, raised an estimated £900,000 for charity, supported local businesses, and added immeasurably to our sense of individual and civic pride.

In running your city, you run for your city. There’s still time to be part of the spectacle.

  • Enter online by clicking here.

 

 

Challenge to be record breakers for food drive

From Monday you will notice collection crates in kitchen areas across Marischal College, the Town House and Frederick street as a five day food drive begins.

The Council and CFINE, as part of Food Poverty Action Aberdeen, are joining forces to raise awareness and, most importantly, gather donations for food and supplies that can be distributed in the ongoing efforts to tackle food poverty.

Last year we raised 550kg and the challenge for 2018 is to beat that total and make another valuable and vital contribution.

As employees of the Council we share the common purpose of protecting the people and place from harm – and that isn’t always in the most obvious or high profile ways. By contributing to initiatives like the food drive we can all make a difference.

Thanks in advance for your support.

Don’t miss the chance to recognise colleagues who shine

There’s just one week to go until nominations close for the 2018 Star Awards – if you haven’t taken the opportunity to make your voice heard, now’s the time to do so.

The Star Awards have become an important part of the Council calendar for us and are all about celebrating those who go the extra mile for those we serve, colleagues and the organisation as a whole.

It’s always humbling to hear the stories behind the nominations – we’re very fortunate to be surrounded by dedicated, skilled and, in so many cases, selfless team members.

The nomination process is straightforward and I’d love to see recommendations coming in from across every service. The response so far has been great, but the more nominations the better as far as the Star Awards team and I are concerned.

On that note, can I thank all those who have made themselves available to organise this year’s awards. A lot of hard work goes into making it happen and I know that is appreciated  throughout the Council.

Nominations can be submitted in a range of categories and all of the information can be found here. The deadline is noon on Friday, March 2.

I appreciate the contribution of everyone who has taken time out to nominate a colleague so far and hope there are many more to follow over the next week.