Professional public servants are constantly trying to find new techniques, strategies and formulas to address some of our most pressing social issues. Books are written, manuals are produced, conferences are held and documentaries are filmed to bring awareness and instruction on how to address problems. These efforts are great and are often necessary as we try to figure “it” out. However, in all of these efforts, what we can’t forget is simply to: “Know Thy Neighbor.”
How do we get to “Know Thy Neighbor”? Government agencies, businesses and nonprofits collect data about our “neighbors”, and many decisions are made based on this collected data. These efforts are sufficient and serve their purpose, but all too often decision makers use data only to inform their decision-making. In addition to data, decision makers have to get to know real people. Social problems can be very complex, but something as a practical as a conversation between those being served and public servants can produce possibilities and ideas that would never be realized through technical only approaches. Information and data is great, but connecting to real people has to be a part of any strategy.
In all our “doing” as professional public servants, let’s not forget to “Know Thy Neighbor.”