I spotted a job ad a couple of weeks ago for a ‘Chief Service Officer‘ for Bristol City Council. It wasn’t a job title I had come across before so I followed the link to the Nesta page about the Cities of Service programme and read with interest about its roots as an initiative from former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg which has grown across the US thanks to support from his charitable foundation and has now made its way to this side of the pond with a little help from Nesta.
The aim of the programme is to;
“..mobilise the talents and energy of volunteers to meet city wide challenges.”
Now there is always a bit of an issue with transferring activities that used to be provided by local government to volunteers and the whole ‘Big Society‘ thing didn’t really come to much in the UK but this does seem to be taking a bit more of a systematic approach and is interesting for a city like Bristol I think – somewhere that despite its size still has a sense of community in a lot of areas and a genuine affection and pride in the city from many residents.
Personally I’d be interested in seeing how something like this could really help get things like GoodGym, Casserole Club or even LandShare to be really successful in the city. Also to get more involved with the Go-On initiative (I just read this article about the cost of a digitally capable citizenship). What I’d be disappointed to see would be the creation of new local initiatives – just because other existing things ‘were not invented here’.
These services that already exist (and I am sure there are many, many more – these are just the ones that sprang to mind) already have tools and support in place but to really work they need the access and publicity that the Council is in a unique position to provide (plus funding..always funding!).
I love Bristol but am not under illusion that we have a unique set of challenges so why not work to make the best of things that are already out there – especially when it has a finite lifespan.