Creative Bureaucracy Festival planned for Lisbon

 In Administration, News

The words ‘Creative’ and ‘Bureaucracy’ when put together seem a contradiction in terms. There is a seemingly obvious tension between the two.

When one thinks of bureaucracy in Portugal the image from the general public and from popular Portuguese TV comedy shows is badly paid and surly civil servants who lazily wile away the day taking endless coffee breaks and sewing reams of administrative documents together that no one will ever read.

Then, there is the other, more negative view. The idea, right or wrong, that the party political nature of central and local government administration in Portugal is essentially corrupt, opaque and has a vested interest in keeping things exactly as they are to cover all kinds of private sector backhanders to see projects ploughed through municipal council planning permission meetings from interested economic parties who have paid under the table to silence any reservations that a number of expert studies may have raised.

But behind this vision there is the other side. The many great ideas that make the lives of our citizens better which are often forgotten. The Simplex Programme is just one idea over the past few years which shows that creative bureaucracy really does exist. The award-winning Cascais Council Mobi Programme is another.
Many who work in a bureaucracy because they want to make a difference in big and small ways. They see their work as meaningful. It’s the context that is frustrating. In Portugal, for example, the opaqueness, corruption, nepotism, the ‘jobs for the boys’ mentality, micro-politics and political affiliations and power play are what drag the public perception down.

But in Portugal, both at a central and municipal government level, bureaucracies have been changing over the past decade, becoming more client and service orientated and above all, faster and more efficient. This story and those behind these innovations are often overlooked.

In September 2018 the first Creative Bureaucracy Festival took place in Berlin at the Humboldt University. Over two days and on nine stages 165 outstanding speakers from all over the world, including 1,200 guests involved in 100 programmes came together and showed that creative bureaucracy can be anything but grey, dull and faceless. Indeed it can be creative, invigorating, successful and can have a huge potential in the public sector and for making all of our lives as citizens better.

But can some of the best practices in internal administration around the world be adapted and used in Portuguese cities like Lisbon and Porto?

The goal at last year’s Berlin event was to brainstorm ideas on how to increase innovations in the Public Sector, foster the recognition and exchange of innovators, recruit performance-orientated, innovative young talent, improve the public perception of the Public Sector and its innovative strength.

This week a group of talented thinkers from all walks of Portuguese life; from education, from a public administration training association, urban rehabilitation entities, creative and smart city experts such as Charles Landry, journalists and Lisbon municipal council officers gathered at the British Council in Lisbon to debate and brainstorm perceptions of public administration in Portugal and ask the question: Could Lisbon benefit from a Creative Bureaucracy Festival?

The festival planned for the city aims to bring together a broad cross-section of Portuguese society: academics, artists, urban experts and those experienced in best practices and innovative ideas from overseas to debate to what extent Portugal’s public administration is and can be creative. The debate on this question is about to begin!