4 June 2024

Jonathan Stephenson on the advent of the Public Sector Challenge

Founder of the Public Sector Challenge, Jonathan Stephenson talking to Nick Kilby and Heather Jameson about the advent of the challenge during the latest episode of the ‘Our World is Local’ podcast. 

Heather Jameson: So how did the Public Sector Challenge Come about?

Jonathan Stephenson: I had some time off and I thought, how are we going to really embed this partnership in a softer way and bring people together in an outside of work experience. Trying to think of ideas outside of just going out and having a drink because actually – going to have a drink isn’t always the best way to engage people because not everybody wants to go and have a drink and sometimes when you’ve had a drink, it’s not always the best conversations afterwards.

So, I thought about what we could do – let’s walk together. Yeah. Wonderful. Let’s push it a little bit further. Let’s go and climb a few mountains together. So I Googled the Three Peaks Challenge. I thought the nationals were probably a bit tough, but let’s go to Yorkshire. So after a bit of planning, we headed up to Yorkshire in 2022,  actually we headed up on the coach the day the Queen died, which was a real, real challenge.

But we carried on because we thought she’d want us to undertake this challenge because it was a charity challenge. We had over 40 people across the Brentwood Borough Council and Rochford District Council. So over 10 percent of people within the organisation went off and did this and we completed the challenge, came back, raised £15,000 and fought for local organisations for our mayor and chairman’s charities. 

And then I thought, unfortunately, based on the experience I’ve had that year, I’ve lost three colleagues through cancer and four since then through pancreatic cancer.  Actually, we as local authorities in the public sector like a challenge and have had to take up a number of challenges over the years.

So why don’t we open this up wider? And in 2023, we did the national Three Peaks of over 150 people undertaking the challenge and we raised £50,000 pounds for Cancer Research UK. This year we’ve gone further than that. We’ve gone back to Yorkshire, but I say only Brentwood and Rochford did the Yorkshire the original year.

We’ve now hit 500 people this week, actually participating in the challenge, which is a bit of concern. Cause I’ve now had to sort of pay off the local parish council and sponsor a group to ensure that they’re on board as well. 

But we have now got teams from over 45 public sector partners from police, fire , civil service  and local authorities from Hartlepool down to Tess Valley.

So we’ve got councils all over the country. And we’ve also got a number of partners, including yourselves, the MJ and Cratus Group, that are our main partners in the challenge. But we’ve got teams from Microsoft, Amazon, legal firms, Trowers and Hamlin, Burkitts. 

We’ve got over 40 commercial partners that are supporting and they’re supporting in a way that they’re participating, but they’re also inviting their public sector clients to come along and I’ve just secured the most important thing – the big top for the celebration medal giving event afterwards as I know Nick you like a party! 

You can listen to this episode in full below: 

Hosted by Cratus Group CEO Nick Kilby and the Editor of The MJ, Heather Jameson, the ‘Our World is Local’ podcast is a space to learn about the key figures in local government, highlighting the tremendous work they do for the communities they serve.