• July 16, 2019
  • 11 minutes
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Inside the grassroots group connecting public servants

Opinion: Indonesia wants everyone to have a friend in government

This opinion article was written by Alwin Adityo, Junior Researcher from the Financial Services Authority, Indonesia (OJK) and Friezca Rara Juta, Policy Analyst from the Ministry of Home Affairs, Indonesia, and co-chairs of Aparatur Muda. This writing reflects our personal opinions and not the official stance of our respective workplaces.

For far too long — as in many other developing countries — Indonesian civil servants have been seen as barriers instead of builders for their nation’s progress. 

They are stigmatised as the sluggish, inert and unscrupulous obstacles that stand in the way for a better Indonesia. These stereotypes are something that the new generation of public servants with their brimming idealism do not identify with, and this negative cliché is an image that the youth is keen to disprove. 

Creating a culture of integrity, synergy, and innovation among young Indonesian government officials is essential in ensuring a brighter future for the Indonesian public service. 

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Such values should be instilled in the young officials who fill the entry-level positions of government organisations, as they currently represent the majority in the employment roster of many ministries and governmental bodies. 

It is this age-group that will be positioned in the decision-making roles when Indonesia’s socio-economic level is expected to peak in the next 25 years. 

Networking for the future

Most of the time, young governments officials are likely to only meet with each other through meetings held between their institutions and, unfortunately, not everyone gets this opportunity. For those that do, they are usually assigned the backbencher role, which limits their opportunity to share their views. 

This results is that the young government officials don’t know each other very well due to the lack of communication and collaboration with one another. 

The need to create a sense of belonging and a desire to improve trust, communication, and collaboration among the young government officials then motivated some of us — the young government officials working at the central government level, in mid-2018, to establish the Aparatur Muda platform which literally means Young Government Officials in English. 

Aparatur Muda is an independent community that is self-led by us and independent of state funds. This grants us the freedom to design the blueprint for the organisation and determine the best way to achieve our mission of building informal networks, sharing knowledge, and capacity building among young government officials from various ministries and non-ministerial bodies. 

Connecting public servants

Aparatur Muda is run by a Steering Committee led by a pair of co-chairs overseeing three divisions with specific tasks and responsibilities. 

The current Steering Committee consists of 24 young government officials from various ministries and non-ministerial bodies, who were actively involved in initiating and establishing Aparatur Muda. Steering Committee members are committed to dedicate their time to be actively involved in Aparatur Muda in addition to their full-time work as government employees. 

Aparatur Muda at the Happiness Festival, Jakarta, April 2019 (picture credit: Aparatur Muda)

In its first year, Aparatur Muda has conducted seven events to not only expand the network of young public servants, but also to develop critical thinking skills and sharing of ideas as a way to cultivate our three pillars of integrity, synergy, and innovation. 

These events take place in informal settings without the rigid formal constraints to enable us to better express our ideas and understand each other. Aparatur Muda aims to hold these kinds of events, at least on a monthly basis.

One of these events was a policy discussion session that focused on brainstorming key steps Indonesia needs to make in order to develop its Indonesia’s human resources and information technology for 2045, the year in which Indonesia is set to celebrate its centennial since achieving independence in 1945. 

This event was attended by more than 50 young government employees from different ministries and institutions based in Jakarta who showed enthusiasm in expanding their networking and critical thinking skills.

Through our participation in these events, we hope to not only inspire others to work in the public sector but also transform the public’s perception of young government workers from boons to banes for Indonesia’s development. 

The broader picture 

Any young government official is welcome to participate in Aparatur Muda’s events or meetups. Participants coming from a wide range of professional, academic, and cultural backgrounds allows us to understand issues from a broader perspective better.

Each of these meetups has a different theme and does not solely focus on discussing key policy issues that require brainstorming. The events also include leisure activities, capacity building initiatives, and charity events. In addition to off-line meetups, Aparatur Muda actively engages with its audience through the use of social media to provide updates or information regarding key issues or conducting book reviews. 

One thing is for sure: the business as usual routine where the junior officials are sidelined and segregated into their own silos is untenable

Aparatur Muda is still in its infancy, and plenty of opportunities and challenges lie ahead in achieving optimal trust, communication, and collaboration among Indonesian young government officials. 

In spite of various constraints, as an independent organisation driven by young government employees, Aparatur Muda always seeks to facilitate the desires of young government officials to bolster their integrity, synergy, and innovation. 

Any community requires commitment and perseverance from its members in order for it to be continuously active.

A challenge lies in balancing our time between Aparatur Muda and other commitments. We have learned that the best possible way of overcoming this challenge is by developing a bi-monthly work plan for Aparatur Muda’s activities that is mutually agreed upon by all steering committee members.    

On the way towards 2050

To make this a reality, Aparatur Muda aims in the future to maximise the use of online platforms to interact with our colleagues who are working in over a hundred ministries, non-ministerial bodies, non-structural institutions in the central government level and over five hundred institutions in the regional government level sprawling across our 17,000 islands. 

Developing virtual group discussions would also be seriously considered to engage with our colleagues working outside of Jakarta who would like to take part in joining our activities and become active in Aparatur Muda. 

In 2050, not long after its centennial, Indonesia is expected to be the world’s fourth largest economy. However, we cannot take this vision of the future  for granted. 

There are many challenges that we need to overcome to make the prognosis come true, one of which is to make our public service more effective and agile. That work should start from today because the policy makers in 2050 are today’s junior officials. 

Changing bureaucratic culture will not happen overnight, but we realise that it’s a long game, one whose fruits may not be visible for years if not decades to come. 

One thing is for sure: the business as usual routine where the junior officials are sidelined and segregated into their own silos is untenable. With Aparatur Muda, Indonesian young government officials demonstrate that they will no longer wait for change but strive to be the change they want to see. 

Spreading the spirit around the world 

Lastly, improving values such as integrity, synergy and innovation values should be universally accepted as a way of developing better young government officials to better position themselves when their time comes to be in the driver-seat of policymaking.

As this aim is not unique to Indonesia, we would not be shocked if another Aparatur Muda pops up in different parts of the world. Aparatur Muda would be excited when such situation occurs as there is limitless possibilities and opportunities to network and collaborate with like-minded colleagues from around the globe. — Alwin Adityo and Friezca Rara Juta

(Picture credit: Death to the stock photo//Aparatur Muda))


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