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Solace blog

16th October 2015

Future direction of Solace

The image of Felix Baumgartner jumping from a balloon 23 miles above the Earth is one that will stay with me from the Solace Summit. The analogy with the challenges we face as public service leaders may be extreme but had real resonance for many of us watching the film of his record breaking attempt to break the speed of sound – the bold step into the unknown, managing the risks, and the reliance on the wider team. The session focussed on our role as pioneers and we are certainly breaking new ground. The scale and pace of change is unprecedented (and that is saying something given what we have faced and achieved over the last 5 years!).

Against this backdrop, I believe Solace has an important role to play – inspiring and developing leaders, shaping policy, sharing best practice and building partnerships for the future – and I am delighted that I have been elected as your new Chair. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m CEX for Gateshead Council (think world-class culture, not post-industrial wasteland and if you don’t believe me, book in for next year’s conference taking place 12-15 October 2016 and see for yourself!). I’ve worked in local government for a number of years and prior to that in the cultural sector. More recently, I took the lead in establishing the North East Combined Authority. As well as being a member of Solace, I have been involved in the management board and representative for the North East.

If we want Solace to be a highly regarded, professional and influential representative body for senior leaders in the public sector across the UK, we will need to respond to the issues that are relevant to our membership, including ongoing fiscal restraint and the consequent changing role of state, devolution, and wider implications of increasingly unstable global environment. Not only that but as our President, Mark Rogers, has stated, we will need to be rigorous about standards and what should be expected of us as professionals; our ethics and our values.

Thanks to the hard work of the Board and the team, we have a strong platform upon which to build, but Solace is first and foremost a membership organisation and I hope to hear your views on what you see as our future direction – how we add value in policy terms, how we widen and deepen membership engagement across all parts of the UK, including developing support for future leaders and, of course, how we build further links with other partners and stakeholders, for example, business partners, CIPFA, ADASS, LGA, and Whitehall. Please get in touch, either directly with me at Gateshead or via Solace. I look forward to working with you.

By Jane Robinson, Chief Executive, Gateshead Council, and the new Solace Chair