Yet another geek-wonk interface interlude at work the other day, brought up the topic of helping without helping. It’s something we in local government specialise in – giving what we have, because it’s all we have and all we know, when what’s needed is something totally different. But we say we have helped – we tick the box and mark it as Done. This is mistaking action for outcome, and we need to stop doing that.
Spookily, the next day a colleague found this article – “Don’t Inflict Help, Provide It”
There’s a lot in there about emotional investment in people and how it makes us feel to help someone; I’m not sure that applies to the public sector so much. On the front line, obviously it does – one individual helping another in a crisis will always have that. But I’m talking about the institution … in a closed office, never seeing the actual customers, we sit and we write strategy and policy and procedure. How do we actually know if we’re helping or not?
This revolves around the other things we don’t do as well as we could: asking people what they think, helping them design what they need, and understanding why it works.