23 August 2012
Hannah Rees, a Communications Manager at Cornwall Council, is this year's winner of the Local Government Challenge
I don't think I really knew what I was letting myself in for when I answered the call from my assistant chief executive to consider myself for the Local Government Challenge.
Drive and ambition – that sounded like me. An opportunity to develop in a unique setting – who wouldn't want to do that? A one-off opportunity to share learning with nine other like-minded individuals – yes, OK, where do I sign?
Finding out I was in the final 10 was a surreal sort of feeling, but an exciting one too – there had been lots of applicants and only the 10 best could make it to this stage. The expectation suddenly felt quite large.
From the off, we were a great team. From different types of authorities and roles, each of us had something different to bring to the experience. Each challenge saw all of us buy into each council completely – their vision, the work they'd put in to the challenge for us and what they wanted to achieve. We wanted to help them achieve it.
I learnt a lot about my own personal style and team dynamics. I was enthused by the way that my experience of working at Cornwall Council during some of its most challenging times helped to inform the work we were doing during the challenges.
So, what of the win? In all honesty, I didn't see it coming. I had a lot of respect for my fellow competitors and picked four for the final that didn't include me. However, once the final was on the table, I wanted to give it my all and I worked hard to come up with a project that I really believed could help all of local government in the UK (drive and ambition remember?).
I was still shocked to hear my name read out by Eric Pickles as the winner. The moment was made all the more special by my head of service, leader of the council and political group leaders all being there to see the announcement. They could not have been prouder of me – you can't ask for more than that from your own authority. I was re-presented with my award at the next full council meeting by our chairman and given a huge round of applause.
And what am I up to? Cornwall has been recognised by NESTA as one of six Creative Councils, for our ‘Shaped By Us' project. The project will eventually produce an online platform where citizen entrepreneurs can share great ideas and get help and funding to make those ideas happen. I'm part of the project team that is bringing this to life, and will learn from Europe and the US in terms of citizen engagement and digital communications in order to inform how we do it. So, hopefully councils across the UK will be able to use this platform to help their citizens to make good ideas happen in their own communities.
Would I do it again? Absolutely – it's tough, it makes you take a look at yourself that you perhaps wouldn't otherwise do and it certainly is a challenge. It's also totally unique, rewarding, fun and a great way to see how the sector is trying to do more with less – what better learning is there than that?
28 August 2012