In 2015, as a result of informal discussion between the group of young professionals from private sector and Deputy Prime Minister of Slovenia the great initiative called Partnership for Change (PfC) arose.
Many conferences and panels are organized to talk about the better future of the country, but rarely something is put into action. Their spontaneous idea became a successful initiative that has changed people’s perspective on how the future of the country should look like. Now in 2017, the third round of the innovative project has been organized. They have expanded and grown greater than initiators have ever imagined.
Partnership for Change is a program of innovative collaboration between Slovenia‘s public administration and private sector, working together through the exchange of employees, sharing best practices, and solving real challenges. The most challenging barrier they noticed was the existence of stereotypes, the lack of understanding and cooperation between public administration organizations and cooperation between companies. Moreover, they wanted to address the problems such as lack of openness, trust, fun and creativity for the employees in the process itself. They hoped this approach would provide a very slow and welcomed implementation of modern approaches.
There are many conflicts and stereotypes that arise when there is a lack of understanding on both sides due to lack of communications between players to make an improvements and changes. So, how does it work? For a week, public employees traded places with those from the private sector and, among other things, exchanged both professional and personal experience and knowledge. By learning to understand, trust and tolerate each other’s unique differences, they created solutions for chosen challenges by forming mixed teams, and then implemented these solutions.
How did the process start? First, the parties involved were getting to know each other, then they began to collaborate, and today, they are co-creating. Instead of facing problems, they face challenges and focusing their time to search for solutions in diverse teams. All participants also attend workshops together where they learn how to communicate, build soft skills, and boost their emotional intelligence. It is an alternative way of working (based on voluntary participation) where they have the opportunity to work in a different way through play, innovation, creativity and boldness. There are not many rules and procedures, focus is on building on team recognition and personal engagement.
Not only was PfC covered by the media as a large-scale effort driving a positive practice, but the number of participants has been increasing since the program was first launched. In the first round, the Ministry of Public Administration and 23 companies exchanged 27 employees. In the following round, the number increased to 5 ministries with 30 employees and 30 companies with 37 employees, in total 67 employees. In addition to the employee exchange, they identified 5 common challenges: 1) raising motivation of employees, 2) enhancing the effectiveness of cooperation, 3) making complex electronic services user-friendly, 4) adjusting the education curriculum to the needs of 21st century learners and 5) strengthening the Slovenian brand and social identity. They formed 5 mixed groups of employees from the ministries and companies, which have created solutions to these challenges. This year, they implemented their third round which included solutions to common challenges experienced between 6 ministries, 36 domestic and foreign companies, with 80 employees participating in this ever-growing program.
Indirectly, the program is making a cultural change within the participating organizations and within the wider public. Their mission is to create a more optimistic, understanding and collaborative society directed towards achieving public good. The potential of the innovation to be replicated throughout all government and Public Administration is enormous. The model is growing in organic way, all that is required now is a great recognition of the importance of social responsibility to understand and embrace the differences and similarities among diverse social groups and organizations more fully. The key condition for success of the project is rooted in the wish for an open partnership and honest communication that has is aligns all partners.
PfC is not only changing the system, they are changing the perspectives by breaking down the stereotypes that this kind of collaboration is rarely possible and hasn’t been tried. With an agile approach, the internal wish of PfC is too awaken the desire of each participating individual to want to create positive change and collaboration. All of that by building and working on understanding, tolerance, and respect between diverse sectors and people.