• Opinion
  • December 19, 2018
  • 8 minutes
  • 1

The music public servants love: the tracks that inspired 2018

We made a Spotify playlist of the music you've been working to this year

As 2018 draws to a close, we thought it a great opportunity to take an oblique look back on everything you’ve done this year.

You’ve crossed boundaries to collaborate with people in other departments, adapted to new technologies and turned them to the public good and continued to wrestle with the old, tricky problems which just don’t seem to go away.

We wanted to know what music was playing in the background as you did all of this. So over the last few weeks, we’ve been asking public servants who use Apolitical’s platform to suggest songs which either:

1. Say something to them about their work and working in government.
2. Have inspired or helped them as they worked on their projects.

From these suggestions we’ve created the Apolitical Spotify playlist for public servants, which you can listen to here.

We’ve also pulled out a few highlights. From frustration to elation, it’s all there. We hope you enjoy listening.

One Beat — Sleater-Kinney

This song from US punks Sleater-Kinney, suggested by Emily Ianacone, design strategist at the Mayor of Baltimore’s Office of Innovation, is an anthem for reform.

“If I’m to run the future, you’ve got to let the old world go,” sings vocalist Corin Tucker, a lyric for all the public servants struggling against internal obstacles, outdated procedures and arbitrary departmental boundaries. As Ianacone said, the song’s an “excellent motivator” for those pushing for positive social change.

“Could I turn this place all upside down?”

With a Little Help From My Friends —The Beatles

The Beatles classic was suggested by Abe Greenspoon, talent manager for Canada’s Free Agents, a groundbreaking team of problem-solving public servants who jump from department to department to tackle challenges.

For Greenspoon, public service is about collaboration. It’s impossible to achieve anything on your own and, he said: “any success I’ve had it’s been thanks to the people I work with”. This song is a reminder that you’re not alone in pushing for something better.

Copy of a — Nine Inch Nails

Working in government sometimes comes down to finding what’s already worked somewhere else and adapting it to fit your own environment.

That’s the reason behind this suggestion by Enrique Zapata, Head of Mexico’s National Anti-Corruption Platform. “This is policy,” he wrote.

How Far I’ll Go — Auli’i Cravalho

Working in the public sector, you often do a lot of work and get very little credit for it. To achieve what you want to achieve, you need staying power, and it can be tricky to tell when you make a difference.

It’s why Amanda Smith, Acting Deputy Director for Data Leadership, Innovation & Culture at the UK government’s Cabinet Office, suggested this one.

“You can do the comfortable thing and never challenge the status quo, or you can do the thing that scares you, that is hard work, that takes time and requires fundamental change. Leading change in government can be daunting — the playbook is rarely written for us.”

Aluta Continua — Miriam Makeba

This song, whose title translates to “the struggle continues”, was suggested by Obakeng Leseyane, founder & executive director of South Africa’s EdConnect Initiative, and an inaugural Southern African public service fellow.

Government can be emancipatory, and public sector programs can do a lot to correct historic injustices. But, Leseyane believes, they can still do so much more.

“My belief is that enhancing access to quality education for all can be the greatest equaliser of the human condition,” he said.

Chat Controlled Dreams — The Dream Stream

2018 has been the year in which government really started exploring artificial intelligence. Public servants are now experimenting with AI to make their services quicker, faster and cheaper, writing law as programmatic code, and, in California, even building systems to automatically downgrade marijuana convictions on criminal records.

So, naturally, the team at Etalab, the French prime minister’s team of data specialists, put their heads together and suggested this, music by a robot, music generated by the data of a sleeping person.

Nova Lisboa — Dino D’Santiago

Making sure the people inside our public services work for all the people they serve, and understand the needs of diverse populations, is a constant challenge.

Suggested by Pedro Lopes, Secretary of State for Innovation and Technical Training for the Government of Cabo Verde, this song is about changing societies and “looking on the horizon wanting to be futuristic, but embracing the past and [your] origins”.

“I believe it is essential for countries: embracing innovation but always making bridges with their roots,” he said.

Come Healing — Leonard Cohen

Techies working in government have it tough. As policy becomes code, every country wants to be the best at digital, and you have to reconcile the fast pace of development with inclusivity and your users’ needs.

For Audrey Tang, Digital Minister for the government of Taiwan, Come Healing by Leonard Cohen “is a constant inspiration on reconciling the seemingly irreconcilable,” doing cutting edge work that helps citizens live better lives.

It’s so important to Tang that she translated it into Taiwanese mandarin, and sung it in an interview.

Thanks for reading in 2018, congratulations for all you’ve achieved, and all the best for 2019.

(Picture credit: Musicoomph.com)


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