The Civil Service Operational Delivery Profession recently held an event acknowledging the achievement of all the nominees for the 2015 Dame Lesley Strathie Operational Excellence Award, one of the Civil Service Awards. Two of the nominees describe the event and the projects that earned them this recognition, underlining the sheer range of work covered by operational delivery.
Susan Elden – Interagency Task Force, Ebola Response Team
I attended the event with DFID colleagues Claire Vallings and Anne Philpott. We were nominated for our work on the Joint Interagency Task Force leading on the response to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. We supported efforts to reduce transmission of and eventually eliminate the disease in Sierra Leone.
I was a health adviser on the team in Sierra Leone from September 2014 until April 2015. We designed and headed-up programmes to scale-up community detection and containment, and led the regional response to prevent a fourth country outbreak. Once we approached zero cases, we provided the recovery response to ensure normal health services could safely resume.
Asked to speak at the event, we shared our experience of cross-government collaboration. Even though we often work closely with other government departments, Sierra Leone was the first time I'd experienced true partnership in delivering services. For example, the Department of Health and the NHS provided staff and expertise; and through the Ministry of Defence, the Armed Forces contributed all the necessary equipment and supplies, building five 100-bed treatment units in less than two months. We also worked hand in hand with the FCO on high-level strategic and diplomatic efforts with the Sierra Leone Government.
The recognition event was wonderful. I found Head of Profession Ruth Owen to be both visionary and inspiring. She is someone who sees civil servants not as faceless bureaucrats in large homogenous structures, but as talented individuals who can make services better.
She set the tone for the event, and made us think of the numerous opportunities for change, improvement and professional learning we could take advantage of. And it was gratifying to have some of the top civil servants, including John Manzoni, Olly Robbins and Robert Devereux, take the time to celebrate the nominees.
Hearing from staff in departments I wouldn’t normally have contact with, made me appreciate just how many there are applying their professional skills to providing essential services and working with vulnerable people. The ones I met included those helping witnesses attending court feel more comfortable; a group who support young offenders; and others getting schoolchildren interested in the services the government provides.
The Ebola Response was unusual in its high media profile, strong public support and clear end point - eliminating the outbreak. But I was proud to stand alongside civil servants working in really tough but less well-publicised situations that require huge perseverance, a human touch and unflinching commitment to improving services and making people’s lives better.
Anne-Marie Douglas – Justice Partnership Team, DWP
I was nominated for the award by my line manager for the work I have been doing with gangs and ex-offenders to discourage them from crime.
My role has evolved from ‘Ending Youth Gang Violence lead’ to being an ‘Ambassador for Social Justice in the community’ specialising in gangs, ex-offenders, drugs and alcohol and youth unemployment.
We work with the local communities, partners, stakeholders and employers to provide information and employment events that create new links for funded training and job opportunities for young people and, hopefully, break the pattern of offending.
Setting up the Education, Training and Employment Hub in the local probation service was one of the most rewarding projects I’ve been involved in. It gives me the opportunity for 1-2-1 interventions with young people referred to me by Probation Officers. I give them advice to help them make informed decisions that could transform their lives.
"What more can I do?"
Being nominated has been the pinnacle of my 15 years at DWP. It was a privilege to be invited alongside like-minded, dedicated civil servants, delivering excellence in the profession. Knowing there are so many out there, dedicated to making a positive difference in communities, has only made me ask myself, “What more can I do?”
The event at the Grand Connaught Rooms in London was a perfect networking opportunity. But I had no idea so many interesting and dynamic departments would be represented. It was inspiring to see the diversity of operations and the extent of our senior leaders’ appreciation of our work and the commitment of all 130 nominees.
Our head of profession, Ruth Owen, gave a tremendous speech. The part of it that really inspired me to be a future leader was when she said: “You are the elite who contribute to keep the country running.”
"Felt like a winner"
I cheered loudest for DWP colleagues, including those in South London Jobcentres who spoke about partnerships with local authorities, supporting the most vulnerable claimants in preparation for Universal Credit. And I was humbled by the Ebola team, who gave a heartfelt presentation describing the life-saving work of the medical centres they set up.
As for networking, such was the number of inspiring colleagues there, I think I only covered half the South Region and a bit of Wales!
I may not have won this time but I still felt like a winner.