To paraphrase the poet John Donne, ‘no person is an island’.
This seems so much more relevant now, with the added complications of coronavirus for keeping in touch and fostering a healthy work environment. It’s easy to feel isolated from family, friends and colleagues.
This is where Civil Service Coffee Connect can help as a way of connecting colleagues from right across the Civil Service. It brings colleagues together to build a network of contacts, fostering a stronger sense of community and cohesion, and draws us closer as members of ‘A Brilliant Civil Service’, wherever we work.
What is Civil Service Coffee Connect?
Civil Service Coffee Connect is a networking scheme that encourages conversations, emphasising shared ambitions, interests and experience. It currently has 1,500 participants, who work in 28 government departments and agencies.
Participation is entirely voluntary. The process is simple – individuals register and are then automatically matched with another member every four weeks. Between them, pairs arrange to meet – at the moment this could be via a phone call, or virtually via a video chat. They discuss anything and everything they want to, from areas of work to favourite TV programmes. In the next matching round, they are each paired with someone new, and the process starts again.
Participants will never be matched with someone from their own department, but anyone, from apprentice to SCS, can be matched. For drinkers of tea and other beverages, coffee is optional!
So, what’s in it for me?
With so many of us now working from home, Civil Service Coffee Connect is a great way to boost wellbeing and create new connections. Networking empowers a sense of community and wider belonging. On the face of it, meeting someone new once a month for a quick chat doesn’t sound like much, but cumulatively, over time, it helps to create a larger network of friendly contacts who can help, support and advise you.
What are the success stories?
The 2019 survey of all Coffee Connect participants reported that 96% would ‘recommend’ the initiative to colleagues, with a big majority stating that their favourite aspect was 'learning more about other departments'. It also threw up brilliant examples of where colleagues’ work has benefited from the initiative – whether it’s conversations that inspire new ways of thinking, or identifying previously unknown work synergies that enable colleagues to collaborate more effectively.
Conversations have helped participants with their careers in the Civil Service through learning and skills development, work-shadowing opportunities, careers advice and understanding better how departments work, both individually and collectively.
The impact of the initiative can be keenly felt in the testimonials of participants. In 2019, one fed back that Civil Service Coffee Connect reminds you “...that there are great people within the Civil Service”.