When it works, we unleash some tremendous energies

Jan Trojaborg represents 40,000 employees when trust is on the agenda in the Central Cooperation Body (CSO) in the City of Copenhagen.

Jan Trojaborg is head of the Union of Teachers Copenhagen (KLF). He represents more than 40,000 employees when discussions at the table focus on cooperation, participation and the trust agenda in the City of Copenhagen.

How did the idea of a trust agenda come about?

The idea arose in 2009 during the local government elections. The later Lord Mayor, Frank Jensen, raised the matter of New Public Management, calling for alternatives to this management philosophy, which was characterised by a high degree of micromanagement, form-filling and policy-making. The Joint Representation of the City of Copenhagen and Frederiksberg Municipality (KFF) took him at his word and initiated an exciting dialogue between politicians and unions with the aim of finding new and better ways of unleashing employees’ potential. This was how trust came on the agenda in the City of Copenhagen. In contrast to the national trust agenda, the issue for the City of Copenhagen is not directly about achieving cost-cutting targets, but on unleashing the immense energies latent in our system. In this way, the trust agenda is essentially a method of governance. The goal is first and foremost to foster commitment and participation as well as create happier employees who prosper and thus deliver better service and care to the city’s residents.

So is trust now firmly on the agenda?

Yes, it is, although in the beginning there was a certain reservation within political circles and among the administration directors. But inviting union representatives and mayors into the same room to discuss trust was really quite contentious. However, it exceeded all expectation, and today everyone involved has warmly embraced the trust agenda. We meet at regular intervals in the CSO and we have held productive meetings between politicians and union representatives. This has enabled us to build trust between politicians, officials, organisations and union representatives. There is no doubt that our cross-disciplinary cooperation in CSO is a driving force behind the trust agenda – and I think that we in the union movement can take credit for pushing the politicians and securing not only their commitment but also that of our members.

What specific results has the trust agenda work produced?

The code for trust-based management is, I suppose, the most tangible proof that all parties have committed themselves to making a dedicated effort to put trust on the agenda. But most important of all are the many positive cases that we have already seen out in the administrations, which you can also see here on the website. When it works, it unleashes some incredible energies. When someone shows you trust, you take responsibility and this raises the quality of service delivery.

Which case has made the biggest impression on you?

That would be a slightly different case, from a school in an area with social and cultural challenges. Here, some of the older pupils have become role models for younger pupils in first and second grade. Trust helps both the young pupils and the older pupils to take responsibility for their own actions also at this level and to make good choices during their normal school day. The young pupils look up to the older pupils and can influence their behaviour in the right direction. At the same time, we give the older students a great responsibility, which has a self-reinforcing effect on their behaviour. In this way, I think it would be fair to say that the work on promoting trust has become a hallmark of the City of Copenhagen, where greater dialogue offers another way of governing a city compared to what you see elsewhere in the country. There are also a number of cases in other administrations where the civil service, managers and employees have found good non-bureaucratic solutions for delivering service to, and interacting with, citizens.

What is the goal of the coming years’ work on the trust agenda?

The goal is to generate even more good cases, producing happier carers, teachers and social educators who can deliver even better service to citizens. In this regard we must remember that there are still personnel groups who do not feel they have been included in the trust agenda – and we must, of course, ensure that they are also brought on board.

What is most important principle regarding the trust agenda?

For me, it is probably that greater trust makes commitments on both parties – both the manager who shows trust and the employee who has to take responsibility for their own tasks and for the bigger picture. It requires dialogue and ongoing follow-up with the individual employee and in the personnel group. All employees basically want to do their job well, and the trust agenda provides space for their commitment and professional skills to flower.