The ‘Thank You’ Officer
Local communities need people who are engaged and involved – and if possible, even happy. Thanking people regularly for what they do would be a good start here….. and it might even fit the government’s intended move to ‘Double Devolution’.
There’s been a lot in the media of late about how happy or otherwise people are. The gist often seems to be that although our wealth and standards of living are hugely better than they were, people are no happier than before.
I once read that one of the Scandinavian countries decided to do away with ‘targets’ for public services; they just set the objective of increasing ‘customer’ satisfaction by a certain percentage each year – and it worked.
This set me wondering whether the same sort of principle might be employed to increase community engagement.
‘Thank yous’ denote recognition
Perhaps every town should have a Thank You Officer – someone whose job or allocated task it is to find out about the good and helpful things which individuals and groups in the community have done, and who would then arrange for them to be thanked publicly. (There are of course already various formal awards systems etc; but this would be an on-going and integral part of the civic life of the community, not something you have to wait months in silence to be ‘awarded’.)
This strategy might have three positive upshots. Firstly, the people who did the ‘good deed’ would feel appreciated, and perhaps even want to do more of the same.
Secondlly, public recognition offers positive role models and might encourage others also to make additional community input.
And thirdly, it would assist the powers-that-be and the strategists in perceiving the difference which local people (at all levels) can make in their own and their neighbours’ communities. This, as has been commented before, is not always apparent to those whose job is to deliver policy.
Perhaps encouragement to acknowledge what is contributed to a community would help the policy makers understand what matters to people in that community, and to see where simple support, not official ‘direction’ or formal strategy, can be the order of the day.
Not everything needs to be led from on high; and sometimes (though not always) local people have a better grasp of what needs doing next than anyone else. It’s all a matter of combining local understanding with that essential wider vision – so why not start by appreciating much more those on the ground who seem keen to think-on about their communities? They’re the folk who, with support, can make it happen.
This could be the start of a really genuine Double Devolution of power, at the points where it matters.
The ideal job?
Is Thank You Officer the ideal task or job? And would it repay the costs pretty quickly?
Only time would tell. There would be snags in this idea, as there are in all other ideas, but saying Thank You is something which might increase both engagement, and also satisfaction, across the board.