Strategy During Covid with Mark Gannon.
In the Ninth Episode of the Make Things Better Podcast we were joined by Mark Gannon, Director of Business Change and Information Solutions at Sheffield City Council.
- Mark Gannon
- Nov 03 2021
Tom: Hello, and welcome to Episode Nine of the Make Things Better podcast. Today, I have Mark Gannon on the show, director of BCIS at Sheffield City Council. Thank you for coming on Mark. And my first question for you is, what is BCIS? What does that mean then?
Mark: Nice to be on Tom. Thanks for inviting me. So, BCIS stands for business change and information solutions. So I basically look after IT, digital, information management and also business change programs for Sheffield City Council. So, I've got an IT service, operational IT service, I've got a digital services team. We look after kind of online services and that kind of thing. I've also got a team of business change professionals. So, project managers, business analysts, those kinds of people. So, we run a number of programs and projects. I've also recently just actually taken on responsibility as the organization's lead for our one-year plan. So as part of our recovery from Covid, the council has put together a one-year plan. We would normally have a three-to-five-year corporate plan, but this is a kind of a transition phase from the kind of responsive part of COVID into kind of moving into a more strategic exit out of COVID years. So, I'm also the lead for that coordination team who are basically helping the organization to deliver against those one-year plan priorities.
Tom: So, you've got a one-year plan. How did you go about creating that?
Mark: So, the one-year plan is essentially it's the list of the, political priorities. You may know that we've now got two parties working together within Sheffield city council. So, the Labour party and the Green party have a joint set of priorities that they put together. Because at the last election, there was no party with overall control. So as part of their executive agreement to go into sort of power together to run, the organizations to run the council, they agreed a number of things. So Six key things that they wanted to see, including, you know, investment in youth services and implementation of new local area committees to improve decision making in Sheffield. And quickly after that, we then agreed a one-year plan, which was a set of key priorities to take us through the next year, that resonated with the politicians wishes for what they wanted to see happen in Sheffield. I was going to say we’ve had a new chief exec fairly recently, but she's been here now almost a year. But, one of her first things was to work with the political administration in the council to identify those priority areas that they wanted to see, put in place. All of it really focused on making Sheffield City Council, a kind of better organization, more fit for purpose, more fit to respond to the needs of the city. And also, you know, a number of thematic areas around the big issues of the day; net zero and green, the economy post Covid, local democracy and transparency are a whole range of things that are important to the politicians. And I think important to the people of Sheffield as well. So, that's really a kind of foundation step between what was a very much a kind of responding to covid, moving into a much more narrow focused set of delivery. And then next year we'll probably publish a three to five-year plan, which, will kind of set out a longer-term set of objectives. Tom: Yeah. So you’re starting out with a one-year plan because obviously a lot has changed, which has probably been detrimental to maybe any three or five-year plans that have been planned in the past, I suppose. Mark: Yeah, I think the thinking was that actually we needed a, a sort of a steppingstone that signalled that we were moving out of COVID response, because for the last, well, since March 2020, the council’s very much been in responding to COVID, and really focused on keeping, you know, keeping our organization running so that we could help to keep Sheffield's running. Cause you know, no one was expecting a global pandemic to come along. So, that's, that's really changed a lot of things in terms of how we work. And we might come on to talk about some of those. But it's also kind of, you know, significantly changed the economy, the global economy and therefore Sheffield's economy. So, really, it's important to say, ‘Right, COVID is not gone. It's still here, but actually we need to start to move towards designing and implementing the things that are going to move Sheffield forward from COVID’ and, you know, you might've seen some of those things recently. There was some good news last week from the budget, which was unexpected, if I'm honest, around funding for Sheffield. Both in terms of our grant from government, which has been slashed over the last decade, but also some funding for, you know, improvements in Castlegate and Attercliffe, which are really positive symbols for Sheffield, you know, moving forward in a really positive way. So yeah, so the one-year plan is a kind of steppingstone from COVID to a much more strategic set of plans for three-to-five years.
Tom: Yeah, it's good to hear about the budget news. If we go back a little bit in terms of COVID and you're saying that there's been quite a lot of changes as I would have expected, really, since, you know, March, 2020, can you tell us a little bit about those changes and how it's really impacted your work at the council as well?
Mark: Yeah, so, I mean, the main thing was, I remember back to sort of February, March of 2020. And obviously the news was starting to heat up around there potentially being a global pandemic and, you know, lockdowns and all that stuff, which was all a new language to everybody really. The problem we had organizationally was, that we, in terms of our technology and our ability to kind of work remotely, it was pretty limited at that point. We had the ability probably to allow an absolute maximum of maybe 400 people to work remotely from home. Now, obviously in March, 2020, the news was everybody had to go and work from home. So, at that point we could get about 400 people working remotely, like fully remotely accessing systems from home. We’ve got, you know, nearly 8,000 people working for the council. So that's, that's not a great place to be really. We were just also at the point of ending or exiting from a big contract with Capita, so we just insourced our IT. So, we literally just landed our new IT service and taken over responsibility for all of our applications and our infrastructure at the point that we were told everybody needs to go work from home. And we now need to fast track our plans. We had with plans basically set out for two years to kind of roll out all this new infrastructure. And we were told, right, we need to do it within, you know, weeks, not years. So, you can just imagine. But there's nothing like having a single focus to really galvanize people. And I think that's one of the key lessons I've learned is, I mean, I kind of always sort of instinctively knew that having a clear purpose and focus was important, but actually, you know, COVID was you know that utterly compelling, single thing that everybody knew, understood, realised what the impact was, and really helped galvanize people behind sorting out the things that we needed to sort out. So, I'll just refer to some numbers that I've got written down here. In the period since March 2020, we've we rolled out 7,500 new Windows 10 laptops. I mean, I managed the team that did that. So, they take all the credit for that. They've been absolutely phenomenal. We, you know, I just, even when I think about it, I just still can't believe that we managed to achieve it. We had 60 line of business applications that were packaged up and presented on a remote desktop infrastructure so that people could log in, from home. We rolled out Microsoft 365 and teams, including teams telephony, oh and in amongst that we deployed a new remote contact center, so that our contact center for customers, our agents could log into the contact center from home. So, and I'll be honest that first period from March to sort of Summer of that year was horrible because, you know, we didn't have the infrastructure we needed. But we were in the process of putting it in. But obviously at the same time we were having to try and as an organization, keep services running for people who really, really relied on us. So that was quite, it was quite difficult. But we got through that and, you know, my team did a phenomenal job, but also, colleagues across the council were really, really patient and really understanding. And we, you know, there was really very much a pulling together of everybody in helping us get through that, and the good thing about having the big outsourcing arrangement and bringing ours back in, which at that point felt like, ‘oh God, that couldn't have been a worst time to do it.’ But actually what it meant was that we could be more agile and more flexible in how we rolled out our new infrastructure. So, wind forward to now, you know, I keep getting emails from people saying, you know, thanks for your hard work. This is, you know, people in the organization, from all over the organization, just saying that, you know, they can't believe what a difference it is now. You know, the technology that they have, they can, you know, use OneDrive and log in remotely and see documents and, you know, share documents with colleagues and teams video. It doesn't sound like, you know, the metaverse, but, when your starting point was quite low in terms of available IT, to be at a point now where actually the, IT, you don't really notice it because you just kind of, people can just do what they need to do, and, that's the best position to be in. If you notice the IT doing its job, then it's probably not doing its job properly, The IT should be there, just facilitating. So yeah, so I really enjoy getting those emails from people saying what a difference it's made to their jobs, in lots of different ways. And lots of different teams as well, you know, just in terms of accessibility as well. So, we had, somebody from the team that manages the deaf school and just, they are now able to work in a different way that they couldn't have before, because the technology is enabling that. And it's just, yeah, it's great. But it was, it was quite a difficult period. 2020 was a tough year. This year has been more about kind of, getting the most out of the investment we've made. and now, actually, in a way COVID sort of fast-tracked that and accelerated it because if we hadn't had COVID, then we would have had to go through a massive change journey and done loads of work to try and encourage people to adopt all the new technology. You know, the stuff that, you know, you need to do. I'm not saying you shouldn't do that stuff, but it just takes much longer and is a lot more effort. But actually COVID, people were dying out for this stuff. So, there was no convincing to be done. People were desperate to get technology so that they could continue to provide services. But yeah. And I think we're in a place now where as an organization we're much more flexible and agile, and our opportunities to work in different ways are now hugely bigger than they would have been, you know, a couple of years ago.
Tom: Yeah. I was going to ask you, like, do you think if it wasn't for COVID, you'd be in the place you are now in terms of IT and technology, but you've already said, I guess it kind of fast tracked that whole process, right?
Mark: Yeah. We, we wouldn't be where we are now, but we would be there probably in a year's time. It would have taken a bit longer because we would have taken more time because we could have taken more time. And there's a lesson there really isn't there about, just because you can take more time, it doesn't necessarily mean you should, I suppose. Although I wouldn't plan I mean, I said this a few times to my colleagues, you know, we would never have had a rollout plan like the one we had because it was just insane in terms of the things we were doing all at the same time and the demands that it was putting on our users, actually, not just my team, but the people who were receiving all of this new stuff. And because they weren't connected in, in a secure way, they were having to do kind of almost like second line support themselves on their computer and install things in a way that, you know, they would never have dreamt that they would have had to. But the other thing is it’s really helped with digital skills as well. Because it's, again, it's accelerated, people's adoption of new digital technologies that again would have probably taken years and years to embed. So, we would have got there, but it would have taken a lot longer, I think. Tom: How did you and your team actually manage to get so much tech throughout the council. Like how did you actually implement that plan and kind of deliver all of that to people? Mark: So, when I started at Sheffield City Council, four and a half years ago. I mean as I say, we had a big outsource, contracts, not just for IT, for lots of things. But, and this isn't a criticism of that outsource arrangement, but we, as an organization, had not invested in our core technology for a decade. So, it was in a poor state of affairs. Certainly, it wasn't value for money, and it didn't work well. I remember when I turned up on my first day and was handed my kit, like I'm the CIO of the organization and I'm handed my kit and I sort of, you know, I don't expect any special treatment just because I'm in charge of IT. But you know, when I, when I got what I got, I thought blimey is this, is this part of the test? Are they, are they seeing what I'm going to say when they handed me this stuff, it was really awful. And actually,it was kind of, it was an old style set of arrangements. There was no cloud, everything, you know, everything was in a big data center down south. You might say that was a Cloud of a sort, but, there was no software as a service. It was all kind of in a big data center. So if the data center went down you kind of lost everything. I mean, the month before I started, I think there was a massive issue in that data center and Sheffield City Council lost all of their IT for five days, like nothing, zero. So, you can just imagine what that was like. I was glad I started the month after actually. But, yeah, I think myself and my head of IT, he started not too long before I did. And it was clear that we needed a different strategy. So, we came up with a brand-new strategy. And actually, we just spent a lot of time with senior officers and politicians just explaining what we wanted to do, why it was necessary. And, in a sense, we were pushing against an open door because the technology was so bad and everybody knew it was so bad that, you know, they just wanted somebody who could give them a better narrative and a better plan. So, we were able to do that. And often these things just come down to you might have a great plan, but if you can't pay for it, it sort of doesn't matter. But we were able to build a business case based on saving money from ending the contracts with Capita and reinvesting that in upgrading our IT infrastructure. So, we did loads and loads of work on the plans. So, the plans were there. So even when COVID started, the plans were there, and they were still good plans. So, we were able to roll those out. We had to fast track them. We had to accelerate them. So, a plan that looked like this (Gestures large), now looked like this (Gestures small). So, my role in that really was less in the day-to-day detail and more in the kind of giving the team the space to get on with it without getting loads of hassle from everybody in the organization. So, I was a bit of a buffer, really? That was my role. And also, I sort of was the sort of consistent, single voice that people heard all the time. So, whenever I was telling people about the plans and what was coming next, it was always me and there was a kind of recognition of the program. So, people started to recognise and trust the program. And there's no magic sauce to that. It's just repetition, clarity, and just keep going and keep going. You know, just recognize that there will be choppy times and there were lots of them, but you just have to keep going. You know, it's a good plan. We keep going. Things will come along. They always will that you don't expect from left field and you just have to either try and ignore them or try and deal with them and just, you know, keep moving towards your end goal. Be flexible. I mean, it's not just a sort of stubborn move towards a goal, but yeah, I think all of the prep work we did a few years ago paid off in the end because it was the right plan. And, I think, there were a couple of times where people possibly were starting to lose faith that we were doing the right thing, but I convinced them that we were doing the right thing and that they’re right to have faith. And I think now, we're in a much better place. And I think people are just grateful that we've been on the journey, even though it was a tough one.
Tom: Yeah. In terms of your plan, how did you kind of communicate that with others and how many people within the council needed to be aware of that and sort of share your vision for it?
Mark: So we, we spent a long time on communicating and shaping the messages because, so we have, a wonderful, communications officer that's been with our team on this project. We call it Tech 2020. So this is how long ago we started it. We still call it Tech 2020, even though 2020 has gone because people recognize the brand and trust the brand. So, in a way it doesn't matter. It's a bit like 20th Century Fox. It’s just a name. But yeah, Philippa, our comms lead, worked with me to come up with some really innovative ways to do it. So, we ran a load of engagement sessions with employees. We would go out to where they worked, because the council’s a big complex place, that's got people that work in offices, people that use computers every day, people that don't work in offices and people that don't use computers at all. So, you know, trying to reach all those different people was a big challenge. And we did really nice clear messaging. I would do videos, which would be sent out with some key messaging. I would do, we did, we did a series of podcasts actually. But yeah, we recorded some podcasts. Cause we basically, we recognized. Some people like written information and, and that they consume it like that. Some people like to see videos and they consume it visually. And some people like to hear things, and we just repeated and repeated and repeated and repeated. And the really important bit was making sure that the comms and the sort of almost marketing bit was really tightly aligned to the planning bit because what you didn't want is you didn't want was me sort of as the voice of the program saying things and then the program doing things that were not consistent with that, because it just undermines the credibility of the messaging. So, we would often, well on a daily basis, basically check that, you know, the messaging matched the delivery, and we just gave people the opportunity to engage. We reached most people in the organization, I think, which was great because when it got to, after March 2020, we had to accelerate some of the comms and accelerate some of the work, all of that pre-work that we'd done on building the messaging and building the brand was really important because, you know, people then knew what, who was asking them to do what, and it wasn't a surprise. It wasn’t ‘I don't understand what this relates to’ because people did. And actually, the comms specifically has got loads of really positive feedback. People have said it's really clear. I mean, I'm just the actor, I suppose, the words are often written by Phillipa, the comms person and she writes it really clearly. So she's really good. She knows what people want to hear and what they don't want to hear and what will make sense and what won't make sense. And you know, people are always saying, how clear it is, it doesn't treat people like idiots if they don't know the answer to something, it treats them with respect, it uses simple language. And it's those kinds of things that we've kept over. So, we've been at this now for three and a bit years in terms of the Tech 2020 program and we're now in the latter stages of it. So, we've rolled out most of the big stuff now, so everybody's got their kit. Everybody's got access to OneDrive SharePoint online, 365, Teams Telephony we've got most of our core applications, software as a service. So, there's very little on-premise stuff. So yeah, I mean, there's just some last things we're rolling out now and then. It's probably a bit of a forth road bridge thing and then back to the start with a new plan to kind of make sure we never get behind again cause that was the problem in the past.
Tom: What do you think the most influential thing you have learned from the pandemic is? It sounds like you've got quite a lot of experience in kind of dealing with urgency and rolling out a big plan a lot quicker, but what do you think you've learned about like maybe management in particular?
Mark: Yeah, I think there's something about not underestimating the need to communicate, over and over and over and over before messages hit. I think just communicating once isn't enough. I think what was really interesting in Covid was finding out what skills and experience people have that you don't know. So obviously when Covid kicked off, there were some things that stopped because either we couldn't provide services or we didn't need to provide services. So, we went through a process in the organization, not just my team, but the whole organization of identifying who was available to work and what skills people have. And it was really fascinating. So, one of the things I've learned is not to make assumptions about somebody's background or skills, just because they happen to be doing a particular job in a particular part of the organization. Actually, people have long journeys and long histories to get to where they are. And actually, it's important to ask about that and find out what people have, because actually people are often really happy to bring that other part of themselves to help solve problems. If only you knew and if only you asked them and gave them the opportunity to show that. So Covid really demonstrated that. I mean, I learned all sorts of things about people that I didn't know. Not because I didn't think they weren't capable, but it was just, you sort of box people off or you have a tendency to box people off because they're doing this job that well, that's all they know. That is really not the case.
Tom: So, how did you discover, like what skills people have? Cause I can imagine that it'd be quite hard as a manager, like actually finding out, yeah, this person could be resourceful in this way. Or they could bring this skill here.
Mark: We did a sort of a skills assessment, talent pool thing across the whole organization. So, we literally asked everybody to complete an assessment to say, you know, what things can you bring to help respond to COVID. And actually, people had all sorts of things that they'd done previously in the background that, you know, we just never knew. But also, just talking to people, I mean, you know, just asking people, it's amazing what people will tell you if you just ask them questions. And, often in organizations, you know, especially really, it's probably less of an issue for an organization like yours, which is of a size where you probably know everybody and you probably, you know, you can probably see everybody at some point, you know, in an organization of 8,000 people with like 600 different services, it's unlikely that that will be the case. So, there's a tendency for people to kind of only mix with people that are in their areas. Covid split that apart and people were working together in single teams that had never worked together before. And in doing that, you just find out about people. So, like my team helped to design the kind of architecture for the test, trace and isolate team for Sheffield City Council. And some of the people in my team actually then went and worked in that team sadly for me, because they were really great and I lost them to this central team. But they were doing a great job in that team. and yeah, you just find out about things, the skills that people have. One of the things we're trying to build on in the one-year plan work is the idea of people working across the organization, not just within their teams, because it's better for the organization. More diversity, whether that's in, you know, the skills that people bring or ethnic diversity or gender diversity it just brings better ideas and better solutions.
Tom: Yeah, it's dead interesting that. Before Hive I was doing a degree apprenticeship for a little while and the company I worked for had this idea that they'd basically switch your role every like three to six months within the company. So, you ended up working in eight different departments within the company, and it was quite a good idea because the purpose of that was to learn different skills and get to know different people. And then you could bring different skills to different areas and also see how it all connects together. Because I think in big companies, which that company was, it is quite hard to understand how processes can be more efficient, unless you actually can look at it holistically or, you know, you understand the whole structure of it. So yeah, it was quite an interesting experience doing that in a way.
Mark: Yeah, we've got some Degree apprenticeships and we've basically rotated them around, partly to give them greater experience and then partly to see where they think they might fit better or want to work more.
Tom: Yeah, exactly. I think that is, a decent idea. So, it sounds to me like you and your team have done an amazing job over the last few years. Do you think the pandemic has sort of changed or impacted your ability to deliver services? And is there anything that you've learned that you'd now do differently in the future?
Mark: I think the pace of delivery, for sure, is something that we talk about actually because during COVID, you know, we didn't have time to, you know, literally some of it was life and death. You know, we had to make decisions really quickly in order to provide services. I'm not trying to over egg it, but people might die, or companies might go bust if they don't get grant funding from government in a timely manner or whatever. So, it’s really like important stuff. So, we found a way to work rapidly. We don't need to go back to a world where things need to become slow again. so, cause often you know, people would have said, oh, well, you know, this is how long things take and we've proved that it doesn't, we've proved that we can do things more quickly if we need to. Now there’s a kind of balance there because working at a very high pace level all the time, it takes its toll on people's wellbeing. So, there is something about, you know, you can't work at a hundred miles an hour all the time. It's just it was, it was tough for a lot of people, but equally you can move more quickly. So, I think now, when we are designing process flows and decision-making routes, we're now more thinking, well, actually we know that this can happen more quickly and actually we don't need that step anymore because we didn't need it during COVID. So why do we need it now? And so, it has changed how we think about things. I mean, we've got at the minute we’re going through the budget rounds and we've got some big budget challenges ahead as an organization, as lots of councils do in the country at the minute. So that kind of agility enabled the ability to kind of respond more quickly to changes is something we've learned as well, which will probably help us as we navigate the next few years. And just again, that kind of working across teams and making connections and, you know, it's just a better way to work. And it's really finding the ways to make those connections possible. So as part of the one-year plan work that we're doing, we’re creating some kind of networks of communities of practice to try and make connections between different parts of the organization and help people to learn and develop together. So, yeah, there's a lot of really positive things that have come out of the pandemic. The other one, you know, the big one is just are kind of ways of working like physical ways of working. So, I don't think we're ever going to go back to everybody back in the office full-time a hundred percent of the time. I think that ship has sailed certainly for most big organizations. So what we're doing at the minute is thinking about, well, what does hybrid working look like? So, you know, we've got some people in the office, we've got some people not in the office, we've got hybrid meetings. So, it changes quite a lot of how we would normally work. But yeah, we're on that journey at the minute, cause obviously, you know, if we don't need lots and lots of buildings, then that opens up opportunities to maybe do something else with those buildings and use them for other purposes, which would be good for Sheffield, I think.
Tom: Do you have anyone working for Sheffield city council who, like isn't based in Sheffield or do you think you're going to have more remote workers in the future?
Mark: Yeah, we have. So the person who used to be in my team, who was the team manager for the test, trace and isolate team one day asked the question. If I was to emigrate to Spain, would I still be able to work for Sheffield City Council? And we thought about it and actually he was already working from home at this point, he had been for six months. So we thought, well you know, subject to data protection and, you know, European economic area and all of that stuff. Yeah no reason why not really, same time zone. There's no operational reason really. So yeah, he works in Spain. We’ve got somebody who works and lives in Cornwall. so yeah, there are people all over the place. Again, it's a bit more tricky if people want to go and, you know, work on the other side of the world because there are operational issues down around, you know, time zones and things like that, which are just more difficult to handle I think. But yeah, I think it does change things. And I think actually, if you're an organization in the future that doesn't offer flexible ways of working, I think you'll be in the job market seen as, you know, backward. It's not even a perk anymore. It's just an expectation. I think people just expect, you know, depending on the job, I mean, some jobs you need to be physically in the place, but if you're a consultant or working for an organization, whether it's an office-based job and actually what they're buying is your knowledge and your expertise, then you don't need to be there, then why do you have to be there? So yeah I think that the forward thinking organizations will just make it part of the job offer.
Tom: Yeah. I wonder if we're going to see like more people sort of move around councils in the future as well, because they now don’t have the restriction of location.
Mark: Yeah, I think so. I mean, it's an interesting one because, you may well get loads of people moving from really expensive places. So, people would find it hard to move to London now because it’s an expensive place to live if you're not there already. I mean I did move to London when I was 21 and lived and worked there for five years and it was expensive. And then I left and I moved up North. But, you know I could work for a London authority now without having to move to London and a friend of mine has worked for London borough of Hounslow for the last eight months, full time. He lives in Rotherham. So, you know, it really has upended things, I think. And so organizations can now look at the best talent, it doesn't matter where they are as long as you're prepared to be flexible and agile.
Tom: Yeah, it's a bit of a game changer. In terms of like Smart Cities, how’s Sheffield getting on? I watched a video like from about four or five years ago, talking a little bit about Sheffield and its potential as like a smart city and a few strategies and so on.
Mark: I think, I mean, smart city is an interesting phrase. I think, you know, I think the smarter cities are the ones where they use data most effectively. So, I think there's a few things happening. I mean there's some really cool organizations in the city, like the Flow, who I'm guessing you will be aware of. And they do some really cool stuff with data aorund travel, and you've got some brilliant stuff at the university, the overflows observatory there's some really smart stuff around, heat and kind of, you know, air quality within the city. I think the game changer for smart cities is going to be the green agenda. Actually, I think that's, what's going to really push it high up the agenda. Cause actually, you know, electric vehicles, carbon reduction, air quality. That's really what you're talking about when you talk about smart city, and I think now that, we've agreed a charging zone for Sheffield, I think that will kind of really help to drive the smart agenda much more. It’s a hard one because I think smart cities, unless you've got an obvious use case, it sometimes feels like people are trying to sell you stuff that sounds cool, but actually you know, what's the benefit? I think now we're in a period where actually all of the things that we have been doing, you know, building connectivity and trying to roll out 5g and, you know, Sheffield's connectivity is much better than it was, but, you know, we want to do more and we want to get a 5g demonstrator in Sheffield. So we're looking at options for that, for example. I think that zero and the green agenda will really force that. But yeah, we've got a massively diverse digital sector in the city. So, something to be really proud of actually. And you know, if you're going to talk to Chris Dymond and co soon then there's no better person to tell you about all the amazing things that the Sheffield digital sector are doing then Chris Dymond.
Tom: Yeah, absolutely. I think that is actually going to be like the topic for that podcast. So I'm looking forward to that as well. Anyway, final question for you, Mark. So this is a bit more of a broad question, but I've asked every guest, what can people do in the world to make things better in your opinion?
Mark: Blimey. That is a broad question, isn't it? Well, I'm a humanist. So, and what that means is that I believe that the world that we have is the only world that we have. And, we have a responsibility to A make the most of it and enjoy it as much as we can. And B leave it in as fit a state as possible for the next generation. And there's a phrase that humanism uses, which is think for yourself and act for everyone. And I think that's the best thing that people can do. So be inquisitive, be curious, be sceptical. Scepticism is a great skill to have. Lots of people don't deploy it as often as they should, I don't think. I think, you know, understand data and understand what it's telling us, but then use that information to be kind to other people and to be kind to your environment. So, it's a bit of a broad answer to broad question, but I think those are the things I would say.
Tom: Nah, I think that's a good answer. And, I've been looking into humanism lately. I think my kind of conclusion on it is that most people, if they understood it, probably would say that humanist as well. Right?
Tom: I don't know, anyway, maybe that's a question for another podcast.
Mark: Yeah, if you want to talk about humanism in more detail, Sheffield's, hospital has the UK’s first and only, possibly, humanist chaplain. So she's amazing. And, there is a local Sheffield humanist branch, if people want to talk about it.
Tom: Great stuff I will have to check that out.
Mark: Who knew we'd end on humanism.
Tom: Not me. Anyway, thanks for coming on Mark. I really appreciate your time. It's been interesting to hear about Sheffield City Council and how you've adapted throughout the pandemic. Sounds like you've done a really great job, to be honest.
Mark: Yeah, lots of people have worked really, really hard. And, yeah, I'm really grateful to them for that. And, yeah thanks for having me on. It's been a really good chat, I’ve enjoyed it.
Tom: Yeah, cheers. And thanks to everyone listening as well. I hope you have enjoyed today's podcast and I hope you have a great rest of your day.
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