https://insideDIO.blog.gov.uk/2014/05/19/an-engaging-role-building-bonds-with-estate-users/

An engaging role – building bonds with estate users

I started out on my military odyssey in the summer of 1988, when I first commissioned into the military. For a variety of reasons, but mainly because I was a rash young man, I decided that my future did not lie with the military.

A year later, I found myself policing the streets of a major British city whilst spending one evening a week as a Yeomanry Cavalry Troop Leader in the Territorial Army (TA), now known as the Army Reserve. In 1997, four years after being a bobby, I decided that I missed military life too much and joined an armoured regiment as a TA officer attached to the regular army.

Lt Col Jon on operations in Afghanistan. (Copyright)
Lt Col Jon on operations in Afghanistan. (Copyright)

Two years later, I was commissioned in the Army and have been there ever since. Like most of my uniformed brethren, I have experienced a number of operational tours in some interesting places during the intervening years. As a military policeman these have mainly involved the less savoury aspects of military life!

User Engagement

Three months into my two-year posting at DIO’s Sutton Coldfield HQ, I am getting to grips with the complexities of delivering Defence infrastructure. In this job, I am focussed on developing DIO engagement with the estate user community. Throughout a varied career as a regular military officer I have somehow managed to have very limited contact with DIO, or its predecessors.

DIO's HQ, Sutton Coldfield (Crown Copyright)
DIO's HQ, Sutton Coldfield (Crown Copyright)

To better understand the wonderful world of Defence infrastructure and address the concerns of the wider estate user community, I recognise the need to increase my depth of knowledge. This represents a challenge, but it is one that I am really looking forward to. It is balanced by the fact that I have no preconceptions of DIO. I also feel that I have a distinct advantage in this role as someone who has consistently been an end user of the services that this organisation provides.

Seminars

The efforts that we have put in have already started to bear fruit. Last month we ran a series of User Engagement Seminars to discuss specific concerns of the user community. Each seminar focused on a different issue: one on the User Bank Account, which is a sum of money awarded to the Head of Establishment of each base and office to spend on small projects at their discretion; one on health and safety responsibilities; and one about site issue resolution.

These three seminars culminated in a Senior Users Conference this month, where the issues raised were presented to the Front Line Commands – the Army, Navy and RAF - and a large gathering of Heads of Establishment.

A presentation at one of the recent User Engagement seminars. (Lt Col Jonathan Hipkins, Crown Copyright)
A presentation at one of the recent User Engagement seminars. (Lt Col Jonathan Hipkins, Crown Copyright)

An example of the progress made was the adoption of a number of suggestions from users for inclusion in the re-write of the MOD document concerning health, safety and environmental protection policy.

The events were universally well received, but more work needs to be done, and not just by those of us who are focussed on the subject.

Forward Look

Engaging with the user community is something which will benefit us all. It is also something that the DIO leadership is keen to develop. I believe that everyone in DIO, whatever their role in the organisation, can contribute to this campaign.

We need to continue building confidence in users’ minds that what we do is for their benefit - that we listen to and act on their concerns and are as transparent as we can be, when it comes to dealing with our customers.

Ministry of Defence (MoD) civilian and military staff are pictured at a meeting in Main Building, London. (Harland Quarrington; Crown Copyright)
DIO staff are primarily civil servants, but there are a number of military personnel too. Here, Ministry of Defence (MoD) civilian and military staff are pictured at a meeting in Main Building, London. (Harland Quarrington; Crown Copyright)

To this end, I’m open to bright ideas that people across Defence may have to make life better for that the user community. I’m hoping that MOD staff and Forces’ personnel will delve into their e-mail contacts list and get in touch! I’m certainly looking forward to hearing their views.

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