02.08.2017

There are four types of public servant — which one are you?


Are you an innovator, or more of a wonk or an unsung hero? We at Apolitical created a quiz – what type of public servant are you? – as part of a global study into how people in government make decisions.

Nearly 5000 public servants from 89 countries have already taken the quiz, from the Australian Taxation Office to the Malaysian Transport Department, the Mexican Foreign Ministry, Northern Ireland’s Department for Infrastructure and tiny municipalities in South Carolina.

If you take the quiz we’ll also send you the worldwide results once we’ve finished compiling them, along with a breakdown of what we’ve learned.

Our purpose in creating this quiz is partly to have a bit of fun and partly to understand more about how people in public service approach big decisions — something with huge consequences for effective government and a well-functioning society.

We’ve identified four types of public servant based on research by the US State Department and the Holland Code. But we’ve also already begun analysing the results question by question and — spoiler alert — they’re not at all what we expected.

In case you’re wondering who we are, Apolitical is an online platform connecting public servants tackling big policy issues to their counterparts elsewhere. It brings together hundreds of case studies of what’s working in different policy areas and a network of leading practitioners around the globe. Its purpose is to help people in government find proven ideas and expert colleagues who can help tackle the problems in front of them.

Each of Australia’s immediate neighbours and its further flung allies, like the USA, Canada and the UK, has hundreds of thousands of public servants working on the problems that Australia’s public servants are working on. They have departments for housing, welfare, energy, the environment and all the others, tackling closely comparable problems in closely comparable ways.

This vast and numberless throng of minds busily thinking, testing and solving is the single biggest resource available to public servants, and the least tapped.

As public services are required to do ever more, you can’t work any faster, you can’t work any more; the only thing left is to work smarter.

Tapping that hive of minds wouldn’t really have been possible only a few years ago. But today we all unthinkingly use platforms that maintain complex webs of connectivity and show us what our peers are up to: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and all the rest of them.

We’re building a free knowledge-sharing platform for public servants to do that. Co-designed and supported by, among others, the UK Cabinet Office, NCOSS in New South Wales and the European Union, it helps public servants quickly and easily see what’s working in other countries and connect with the people behind it. We’re launching it around one topic at a time. We’ve already launched “Innovative Public Partnerships”, “Inclusive Growth” and “Data for Impact”.

On November 9, we’ll be launching “Women’s Empowerment” in collaboration with NCOSS at the Investing for Good conference. Our Executive Chairperson, Lisa Witter, will be travelling around Australia and New Zealand at that time, and will be doing the same around September 12 at the invitation of the Victorian government.

Later this year we’ll be launching “Violence Prevention”, and “Smart Cities”, and we have a lot more scheduled for 2018.

Alexander Starritt, Media Director, Apolitical