In the past, Participation Officers (POs) from various ministries attended the “Consensus Camp” held by PDIS every year. This year, let’s start by making friends.

The goal of the PO Consensus Camp is always quite “ambitious”: First of all, it is necessary to get POs familiar with the guiding principles of open government and the actual case studies through the consensus camp in the form of lectures. Secondly, POs should be enabled to participate in the planning operation of the system through presentations of the long-term observation feedback and reform policy of PDIS, and POs should have the opportunity to understand the context and give feedback. Lastly, the annual gathering offers a way for the POs to truly become a “PO Network” by establishing a network of mutual assistance and building friendship.

In the public service system, can building inter-personal friendship and prioritizing trust ultimately lead to inter-departmental cooperation across the chasm of bureaucratic norms under various conditions such as the organizational framework design?

I don’t know. It sounds difficult to put to practice and hard to verify, but we have to give it a try. Let’s separate out the single variable of “building friendship” to see if this variable was ineffective in the past because we had put in too many elements.

That afternoon, we chose to host in the Social Innovation Lab, which was airy, bright, and unrestrained. It was a very different place from the usual meeting location in the Executive Yuan. Audrey Tang walked out of the office and gave a speech casually. The new POs introduced themselves. Then they started chatting.

What did they chat about? There were no designated topics, no posters and post-it notes, no “discussion host/head of the table”, only the “stand owners” arranged beforehand, which were played by senior and experienced POs, whose task was simply to “get everyone chatting”.

Of course, we had talked to the stall owners beforehand, and got the feedback, “The new POs might be confused! Let PDIS hold a class first, so that at least they know how to ask questions.”

We followed the advice and held a pre-conference meeting. Only new POs were invited to “attend the class”, which covered the boring framework and terminology. The rest was left to the exchange meeting, to be naturally sparked by both new and old POs.

On the day of the exchange meeting, the new POs stood up and introduced themselves one by one. When a colleague said, “I’m glad I was not ‘requested’, but ‘invited’ to come”, there was finally laughter in the room.

Only when a key word in the hearts of these civil servants is brought into the open that relaxation is possible.

Whether you were assigned to serve as a PO or came to this place with varying degrees of free will, in short, as public servants, we are all alike in that legal norms and responsibilities are our foundations. We know this very well.

That is why we sent an official document from the Executive Yuan to invite you, emailed the notice of the meeting, and made the sign-in form and name tags.

However, when you sit in a booth, please decide for yourself what you want to talk about, what questions you want to ask, and what you want to chat. Sit down somewhere you like! Unless someone requests the table, PDIS will not interfere in your communication time.

We will quietly set up the venue for you, maintain a basic rhythm of the program, take pictures, prepare refreshments, and finally use a strawberry cake as an inducement to entice you to stay until the end to take a group photo with us. That’s all.

What I want to promote here is not a meeting between Department A and Department B, nor any task and topic, but only “people” and “people.” Although PDIS usually cooperates extensively with POs, and even to the point of exhausting POs, at least for today, we take “casual exchanges” seriously.