Tag Archives: JUC

JUC Centenary Event – Opening Address 18 October 2018

Good morning everyone and thank you for coming to the JUC Centenary Event. I am Ian Elliott and I’m Vice-Chair of the JUC. I am standing in today for Sam Baron, our Chair, who unfortunately couldn’t make it.

The first meeting of the JUC was in London 100 years ago. To mark this milestone we wanted to come back to London to consider the role of the JUC for the next 100 years.
The day has three key purposes.

Firstly, we wanted to recognise the achievements of the JUC over the last 100 years. Many great figures have been associated with the JUC and it is important to acknowledge their legacy and how much has been achieved since 1918. So we have Professor Viv Cree who is going to talk us through some of the history of the JUC based on her own research. I would also recommend that you read the excellent history of the JUC by Professor Richard Chapman which is published in our own academic journal – Public Policy and Administration.

But we can’t allow our future to be dictated by past events. We wanted this event to bring people together with a common interest in public services encompassing public administration and social work. We all are here because we believe that the JUC is a valuable learned society and that the study of public administration and social work are essential to improving our communities. It’s important to consider why we are here and the current state of public administration and social work.

My motivation comes from my parents. Particularly my mum. I few up in a rural sub-post office in Northern Ireland. My mum worked from 8am in the morning until 7 or even 8pm at night serving the local community. Often there would be a line of people queuing up outside in the morning waiting to get their giros or to post some letters. It wasn’t a particularly well paid job and even when held up at gunpoint by a masked gang the Post Office wouldn’t pay for extra security – it had to come out of the household budget. After 40 years of service my mum was forced to retire due to the onset of Alzheimer’s. The modest savings that she had built up over those 40 years, along with her pension, all went to pay for her full time care. The rural post office, like so many public services in our most isolated communities, remains shut. This is a story that sadly has been replicated right across the UK. Should we not be aiming for better than this?

I feel very fortunate to be in a position where I can, with colleagues, help to inform change in the way our public services are designed and delivered in order to hopefully develop a more caring and compassionate society. We know how much public administration and social work matters. Many of you will have similar storied to tell and similar motivations for being here – let’s not forget that. And let’s not forget that regardless of our background, our research interests or our teaching areas, we have much more in common than divides us.

So the second part of today is for you. It has been specifically arranged as an (un)conference so that we, the JUC officers can shut up and listen. We need to listen to what you have to say, to your priorities and to your ambitions for our learned society. You can tell us your story. What matters to you? And what should the JUC be doing in response? We need your galvanising issues or questions to inform what we will then discuss in the breakout groups. You’ll all have had advance warning so hopefully some of you have some ideas already. If you don’t yet have a key galvanising issue that you would like to raise then have a think just now.┬áBut this isn’t an opportunity to whine or moan or to create a TO DO list for someone else – we need people to do things. Get involved! Help us to influence positive change. So I would add to this second key purpose of today – how can you help us to achieve a renewed purpose over the next 100 years?

That then will finally lead into the last part of today, to turn to the future. By the end of the day we will have a set of ideas, or instructions to take forward to our executive meeting in November and then to the AGM in January. The next 100 years starts here – you are all part of it. Please do get involved, discuss your ideas and most of all please enjoy the day! Thank you.

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Who cares?

No-one cares anymore. About anything. At least, nothing that really matters. It’s all style and no substance. It’s all cost-cutting, down-sizing, automating, agile, lean, do-it-yourself. Want to speak to someone? Forget it. Fill in a form – online. How about a cardboard cut-out police officer – just as good as the real thing. And, of course, cheaper.

Just take a moment to scroll through Instagram; browse through the magazines that adorn your local newsagents or flick through the TV channels. Nothing is about what people are doing – everything is about what people are consuming. Ask not what you can do for anyone – ask what filter is best for your selfie. Because you’re worth it.

Of course I know this isn’t true. Or at least it’s not the whole truth. I’m lucky, because I am a public administration scholar and in my job I get to meet incredible people every day. People who do care and are making a difference to the most vulnerable in our society. Social workers, teachers, nurses, police officers, fire and rescue officers, local government officers, policy officers, researchers and academics who are all bound by their passion for public service delivery and their strong commitment to civic duty.

Yet so much of the work of our public servants is undermined by their political masters and the media. Those who are less fortunate in life are classed as undeserving and are parodied or seen as sources of entertainment or amusement (take for example the case of so-called Slum Tourism or ‘Poverty Porn‘ on TV) . Those who work to support them are pilloried for being over-paid, clock-watching (by Michael Gove MP), lazy or self-interested. Yet politicians can lie, make fun of ethnic minorities or the disabled and can even threaten our economic and social security without impunity.

One hundred years ago the world was a very different place. The Great War was coming to an end. Women were beginning (albeit slowly) to secure their right to vote. In the midst of growing academic interest in management science and concern for the implementation of policy a group of esteemed scholars, activists and practitioners, including Professors E.J. Urwick and Sidney Webb, met in London to discuss what was to become the Joint University Council. Today we need a new vision and purpose to reflect current challenges and to ensure we maintain our relevance for the next 100 years.

It is important that this new vision and purpose reflects real life. After all, public administration is where politics meets real life: it’s the delivery of political decisions in local settings. The term has been cause of much academic debate in the last thirty years. Academics have argued over traditional public administration, New Public Management and, more recently, New Public Governance. There have been debates about whether New Public Governance exists? Is it a useful concept? How does it relate to New Public Management and Public Administration? Do New Public Governance and New Public Management represent paradigm shifts or do they represent a continuum? But often these debates serve little more than to increase citations before the next REF cycle comes along. Really, we need to set our ambitions a bit higher than that.

Meanwhile our public servants, who increasingly cannot afford their own homes, are actually trying to make a difference to communities through effective service delivery in face of political and media contempt for their work and for the people they serve. They want to know what works, they want validation for the work they do, they want to know how they can do it better. From this perspective some academic debates can appear to be little more than academics picking fluff from their own navels. Academics are no longer at risk of being seen as out of touch – that is the common perception.

That’s why our centenary event will not be a traditional academic conference. Yes, the academic community will be an important part of it. We need those voices. But even moreso we, as academics, need to listen. That is why it is being arranged as an unconference. But in order for this to be effective we need YOU to come, to get involved, to speak up. This is likely to be the most significant meeting for social and public administration since that very first meeting of the JUC in 1918. Just like that first meeting we need academics, activists and practitioners to come. We need people who care. So sign up now, invite others, and let’s set the agenda for the next 100 years.

Click here to help set our agenda for the next 100 years.

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