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October 7, 2009

Single Interface is ‘doomed’

A central idea in the joint statement referred to above, is that Govt wants to relate to the Third Sector through a ‘single interface’ which will be established in each local authority area.  This new one-door approach is supposed to provide all the support and representation for the Third Sector at a local level, particularly when negotiating with local community planning partners.   If that’s the case then get ready for it to fail, argues LPL supporter Jess Steele, Head of Consultancy at Development Trusts Association (UK)

Jess Steele

The Single Interface is doomed to failure!!

My work is mainly related to community work in England but I like to keep in touch with what is happening in Scotland.  I keep reading this phrase ‘single…’ and I shudder.  The Scottish Govt wants a ‘single interface.   The English Homes & Communities Agency (approximates to what was Communities Scotland) is having a load of ‘Single Conversations’.  Some years ago I was introduced to the idea of the Local Strategic Partnership (approximates to Community Planning Partnership) as ‘a single door to knock on’.

 In all cases my first reaction is bewilderment. How can the state have single relationships with multi-faceted communities?   In those early LSP days I kept thinking of the single door that would be shut in our face and how we would be expected to give up as it slammed. But we would not give up, so we would quickly be banging on the windows, scaling the walls or coming down the chimney!
Fancy having a ‘single conversation’ about regeneration in a place. That would imply we were all co-ordinated and properly represented by somebody. In which case we would hardly need the ministrations of the Homes and Communities Agency since our collaborative energy would be alive and kicking down every barrier in town.
 How modern and minimalist to aim for a ‘single interface’, yet how foolish when real life is all about ‘multiple interfacing’ and the only business models that work on reducing this don’t really work at all (think ‘press 1 for a non-human response’ compared to Google’s mad but workable pluralism).
 So let’s stand up for multiple interaction between communities and the state, for ways around when the way through is blocked, for the one person in the system who gets it and is worth talking to even though they’re not meant to be the contact. Otherwise don’t be surprised when you can’t get a ‘single’ thing done!

 Jess Steele
 Head of Consultancy, Development Trusts Association