Sony, Bloomberg and creating a co-operative capital

I blogged recently about how the Council will need to change to meet the challenges it faces, and so it was fascinating to hear Sir Howard Stringer talk on delivering change in a major organisation like Sony at the Cardiff Business Club. In particular Sir Howard praised the transformation at Sony’s Pencoed plant as a great example of delivering change through empowering staff and generating an entrepreneurial attitude, through better understanding their customers and through sharpening their systems and processes.

On a similar note, I read with interest a recent article in the South Wales Echo about Co-operative Council’s which I’ve discussed in previous posts. I’m pleased to see that this concept is generating a debate on how large public service organisations like the City of Cardiff Council can adapt to meet the major challenges they face.

And the City Council will have to change. A report which makes clear that the status quo is no longer an option will be considered at our next Cabinet meeting on Thursday 15th May.

This will set out a framework for the Council’s approach to change over the next 3 years. It outlines many of the alternative ways of delivering services that will need to be explored as well as the values and principles that will guide us through this period of change. It also makes clear that the needs of those who use our services must be at the centre of how they are delivered in the future, alongside a comprehensive approach to achieving internal efficiencies.

The Echo article suggests that in order to deliver these changes, there needs to be “a visionary at the heart of the Council with the ability to generate ideas that no one else has conceived”. But for me, no single person or organisation has a monopoly on good ideas. Instead, the right solution is much more likely to be found through listening closely to, working with, and empowering those who use and deliver local public services.

I know this is possible because it’s already happening in other major cities, with similar examples in Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool, Glasgow and Newcastle.

And there are promising signs here in Cardiff as well.

You may have read that Cardiff’s submission to the Bloomberg Mayor’s Challenge – a competition for bold new solutions to city-challenges – has reached the final 21 from an initial 150 applications from cities across the world. Our idea really excited the judges and would look to motivate and empower people to make small improvements in their lives or in their communities. The ultimate goal would be to generate a multiplier effect, translating into huge gains for the city. This is an idea taken from sports, like cycling and football, where it is accepted that a series a small positive changes add up to make a large impact.

Other great examples of this co-operative approach include:

– Our Families First programme which involved young people in helping to design a £29m programme to support families in Cardiff that are in most need;
– Cardiff’s 6 new Neighborhood Partnerships which will bring local people and other local partners together to address issues and build greater community resilience;
Cyd Cymru, our collective energy-buying scheme that is already helping people save money on their energy bills;
Cardiff Start, a community interest company which is supporting tech start-ups to create high-skilled jobs in the fast growing digital economy.

These initiatives weren’t dreamt up by a single visionary sat in an office in Cardiff County Hall. They have all come from motivated and empowered people – citizens, businessmen and women, academics and public sector workers – coming together to understand what works, explore new ideas and co-design the best solutions.

Through adopting an open approach to change, based upon strong public service values, I believe we can nurture the kind of entrepreneurial spirit and culture in the City of Cardiff that Sir Howard Stringer argued was fundamental to the successful reinvention of Sony in South Wales.