Tell us three words that sum up your 2023...
Resilience, reflection and hope.
...and why you chose those words
2023 has been a year when NI civil servants have again demonstrated incredible professional resilience. We commenced the year with optimism and a focus on rebuilding post-pandemic. The reality was quite different as we entered 2023 against a backdrop of global conflict, cost-of-living issues, stretched public services, the absence of our governing institutions and a very challenging financial position. Despite – or perhaps because of – these tests, we asked even more of our people, who continued to deliver their best for those we serve. This included achieving groundbreaking innovation to improve service delivery.
Our shared success ranged from award-winning projects in people and organisational development, to the digitisation of a multi-million-pounds soil nutrient scheme. Our giant leap this year was the beginning of our roll-out of fully digitised patient records. While this project was specific to one health trust, we have plans to scale to all of NI. This is hugely significant for transformation in health and social care.
Reflecting on these achievements, it is clear that our people are the true cornerstone of our accomplishments. It was not lost on me as we marked 25 years of peace with the anniversary of the Belfast Good Friday Agreement that it was the determination and expertise of civil servants who turned the wheel of change in 1998 and still do today.
In the last 25 years, Northern Ireland has changed unrecognisably and while there is still much to do, our progress is cause for hope; and hope is never more tangible than during the festive season. We will need to hold onto it as we face the challenges to come and continue rebuilding.
What are your organisational and personal priorities for 2024?
I can’t consider 2024 without reemphasising the importance of my colleagues. It would be wrong of me to ask more of them next year without getting the fundamentals right, including a pay award worthy of their efforts. This means building resilience and people-centredness into our structures in a way that benefits not just civil servants, but our economy, society, environment.
What’s your favourite festive treat, and what makes you say: ‘Bah, humbug’?
Festive wrapping – especially the plastic kind – makes everyone in my family say ‘bah, humbug’, but my favourite festive tradition is relaxing and resetting with my oldest and dearest friends. We meet annually on the 23rd of December and discuss our hopes for the year ahead.
With that in mind, I encourage all my colleagues to take time to re-energise and savour quality time with loved ones. I know that, for some, this can be a difficult time of year, but I trust that all of us will find reasons for hope as we look to 2024. I am reminded of the words of Seamus Heaney: “Hope is not optimism, which expects things to turn out well, but something rooted in the conviction that there is good worth working for."
This is part of CSW's annual perm secs roundup. Read all the entries to the 2023 roundup here