Joke with a jag caveat warning: This isn’t an actual conversation, and isn’t about any specific organisation. It’s a compendium of many conversations which have been relayed to me over the years by deflated, infuriated ordinary folk (known here as ‘Person’) who have attempted to deal with a wide variety of organisations in Northern Ireland’s public sector (known here as ‘Them’). Thankfully some public sector organisations aren’t like the mythical one below. There are also some very capable individuals in the sector, many of whom I have worked with and am still working with. However…
Person: “I have an idea that I’d like to talk to your organisation about. I understand you support this type of project.”
Them (with a look of horror/disdain): “That may be. But we have no-one who could take it forward, we’re already very busy.”
Person: “Okay, but it doesn’t need any of your people to actually do it.”
Them: “But we don’t have any money to pay for someone else to do it either, our budget for this year is already fully allocated.”
Person: “But we're only one month into the current year!”
Person: “Well, I’m not looking for money for myself, but it might need some fairly small production costs to make it happen.”
Them: “But because we’re already fully allocated, we’d have to put in an external funding application to Organisation X under their new Funding Programme Y. However that Programme is closing next month.”
Person: “Okay. How long does that application take?”
Them: “Well, we’ll have to check their funding criteria and, if necessary, distort your idea beyond recognition to make it fit with their criteria. And, depending upon summer holidays and other delays by the time that their assessment and shortlisting process takes a final decision it could be about one year. Once we get written confirmation of the funding then we can talk to you. Hopefully we won't have to put your idea out to tender".
Person: “But it's MY idea!”
Person: “Well, do you want to hear about the idea anyway?”
Them: “There’s probably little point, we’re already busy doing our own projects which are all aligned with our 3 – 5 year corporate plan.”
Person: “But, properly handled, this idea could really capture the public imagination.”
Them (with another look of horror/disdain): “That would create even more work for our already hard-pressed over-stressed staff.”
Person: “But this office is nearly empty. Where are all of your staff?”
Them: “On a course. Or on flexi-time. Or on leave. Or off sick.”
Them: “Well, let’s have a look at your idea anyway.”
Person passes A4 summary document across table, and explains main highlights.
Them: “Well, it looks interesting. However your timeline doesn’t dovetail with ours... your psychic powers are weak. And if we supply the paper for this specific aspect of the project (they said while pointing to a subtitle on the A4 sheet) then later on in the process we’ll probably claim copyright ownership of the words you’ve written and which have been printed on that paper, even though they’ve taken you years of voluntary time and expense to research, craft and perfect. But anyway, we can’t do a, b and c as these are technically not within our remit - or at least how we presently interpret our remit (but that interpretation is under review with an external consultant just now) - and d, e and f are mostly the responsibility of other public sector organisations. So you’d have to go and talk to them and get their written permissions and approvals before we’d even consider this project.”
Person: “But THEY told me I had to meet YOU first, and get in-principle support for the idea before THEY would consider the project! Look, I have a full-time job and this project is just something I’ve come up with voluntarily in my spare time with other local people, who like me have full-time jobs. We don’t have the time to spend our lives in meetings with public sector organisations being bounced from pillar to post and never getting an answer. AND IT'S OUR TAXES THAT PAY YOUR WAGES!” (thumps table).
Them: “But we have no-one who could liaise with those other public sector bodies, we’re already very busy. And we’re not allowed to assist with specific projects – that could lead to complaints from other project applicants. And maybe even legal challenge.”
Person: “So that’s it then?”
Them: “Well, let’s be optimistic for a moment, let’s say we did manage to find some money”.
Them: “What we’d then do is make sure our logo was as big as possible on everything produced so it would appear to everyone that we had devised this project through our own genius, expertise and hard work. We’d then arrange a swish launch event for the great and the good. Maybe a Z list celebrity would be paid to come along. But we might forget to invite you - that happens now and again. You’d definitely be left out of publicity photo shoots. And afterwards we’d chop your project up as we see fit and publish it in whatever way we wish, edited by someone who hasn’t any understanding of the subject but who needs to be kept busy at their desk for most of the day. Unless they’re off of course. And we might also give copies of your project to others, without consulting you, so that they can build a new (probably heavily funded) project on the back of your voluntary project and with no acknowledgement that it’s your intellectual property in the first place. Of course we will need lots of freebies for the people on our corporate mailing list who we need to impress – these would be sent out first before the general public actually get any whiff of your project at all.”
Them: “Otherwise we have this other small pot of money we could point you towards, to do something else entirely. We have targets to meet for that fund and it’s currently under-performing.”
Them: “Would you like a copy of our corporate plan? You can download it from our website or write to request a hard copy edition which will be sent out within 30 days. And if you subscribe to our mailing list we'll keep you informed about all of the other wonderful projects that we are funding.”
Person: “Is there a bathroom on this floor?”
(this was written as a bit of mischief, but a few friends DEMANDED that I post it here!)
Tuesday, July 05, 2011
Posted by Mark Thompson at Tuesday, July 05, 2011