I am grateful for the opportunity to speak with you regarding the work undertaken by BermudaFirst. My remarks are organised into four segments:
- Where are we now;
- The BermudaFirst engagement and communications strategy;
- Recommendations for how we should move forward; and
- A call to action.
Let’s take a moment to reflect on who BermudaFirst is. BermudaFirst is:
- A diverse group of approximately 90 engaged committed individuals;
- They volunteered their time and talents over an 18 month period from January 2018 through midyear 2019;
- They engaged a broad group of diverse stakeholders, discussed, debated and ultimately formulated their recommendations within the specific areas of focusto which they were involved;
- These 90 individuals reflect the diversity and intellectual capital of our community, and include local thought leaders, community leaders, business leaders, educators, health care providers, lawyers and union leaders; and
- All are concerned citizens who believe that ‘we’ is more powerful than ‘me’.
Our mission is:
‒ to create a National Socio-economic plan that shifts mindsets and behaviours and offers every Bermudian the opportunity and tools to participate equitably in our sustainable growing economy.
It has been 5 months since we presented our future state recommendations to the Bermuda public. You will recall that our work focused on 8 areas:
‒ Economic Diversification, Education, Health Care, Hospitality & Tourism, Infrastructure, International Business, Socio-Economic Foundations and Technology
On August 25th , 2019, we delivered our Phase 2 Future State Report, along with all work papers for the 8 areas of study to the Premier.
On September 12th, 2019, the Report was made public. On September 20th , 2019, the Report was tabled in Parliament; and
On November 14th , the Report was debated in the House of Assembly.
We are encouraged by the Government’s engagement on the three priority recommendations that we believe are essential priorities for the development of our economy, and which in turn, will enable all Bermudians an opportunity to participate equitably in this economy’s success. It is important to appreciate and understand why we identified the big three—immigration, education and health care.
While immigration was not a specific area assigned for review, this subject arose throughout each Working Group’s efforts. In our view, immigration is essential to the improvement of our economy. The most recent Bermuda Omnibus Survey, an independent survey of Bermuda residents conducted by Bermuda’s Total Research Associates, supports this assessment, as 72% of the respondents stated that immigration is essential to the creation of jobs in our economy.
As well as growing the economy, we state clearly in our report the inherent challenges with immigration, its nefarious past history, the negative perceptions that many Bermudians who have not been beneficiaries of today’s economy hold, and the very high emotive views that are associated with any discussion of this topic.
Our recent discussions with the Minister of National Security and his Permanent Secretary have focused on their efforts to reform Bermuda’s antiquated immigration regulations and policies to make those policies and regulations suitable for the 21st century where Bermudians benefit, and businesses acquire the talent required for their success.
We are also working to develop a new narrative that will enable a robust dialogue that leads to a better understanding of immigration by all stakeholders.
This exercise is not a winner take all endeavor; it will require honesty, objective listening, a willingness to change minds when factual data is shared and a willingness to reach a shared understanding. The Ministry has also worked with the private sector to develop process improvements for the work permit process that will produce greater efficiency.
These discussions are ongoing, and we will provide an update as progress occurs.
Education is the second of the big three where we can report progress. Two of our colleagues from the Education Working Group are in discussions with the Minister of Education regarding our recommendation to establish an Independent Education Authority to manage Bermuda’s public education system. This system is not producing the results necessary for student success in the 21st Century.
We believe that we must act decisively to transform the structure, management, organisational capacity and outcomes for public education. The reform must be driven by clarity of purpose, commitment to change by all stakeholders, meaningful metrics to report success and most importantly, standards of accountability established and maintained at all levels of the new enterprise.
We expect the combination of pedagogical and managerial expertise to make Bermuda a best in class jurisdiction.
The frequency and substantive content of the meetings with the Minister of Education, points to a positive conclusion.
Health Care is the last of the big three priorities. It is the largest expenditure in our Government’s budget and its annual rate of growth, if not brought under control, will make this cost untenable. Our recommendation calls for a holistic approach to address the full spectrum of complex challenges in health care.
The combination of rising costs, outcomes that do not meet our expectations, lifestyle choices that make Bermuda one of the least healthy populations in the World and the high levels of chronic diseases—all combine to represent a wakeup call.
We believe that it is essential that we utilise external, globally recognised expertise to advise and assist in the delivery of appropriate solutions.
BermudaFirst is currently a participant in the Government’s Health Strategy 2020 – 2025 Steering Committee. Our work product has been shared with all members of the Committee and supporting Consultants in an effort to avoid unnecessary replication of effort.
More importantly, the Premier, the Minister of Health, Dr. Malcolm Brock and I are engaged in discussions with senior representatives of the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University, to provide the globally recognized expertise required to assist us in delivering a holistic solution for health care in Bermuda.
A few additional updates:
Most notable is the Government’s willingness to fund an implementation team to realise the BermudaFirst recommendations. This was announced by the Minister of Finance during Friday’s Budget Speech in the House of Assembly.
This is important for several reasons:
- It affirms the Premier’s serious intent to make transformative change.
- It recognises and acknowledges the absence of these required skills within Government.
- It exponentially improves the likelihood of success.
BermudaFirst believes that the leadership of this team must be a private sector resource with change management experience.
We continue to work with the Government to deliver a Senior Civil Servant Talent Assessment, which will be used to insure we have the appropriate talent,skill and experience in place to lead the transformational change that the Premier requested of BermudaFirst.
This assessment will not only identify gaps but will also identify talent that will benefit from additional professional development.
I should acknowledge that I have many close relatives and friends, who along with their colleagues, are talented and dedicated Civil Servants, diligently doing the Peoples’ business. However, there is ALWAYS room for improvement, if for no other reason, than to keep up with the fast and ever-changing pace of the World.
We expect to hear from the Premier in the next few weeks to provide his response to the full slate of recommendations coming out of BermudaFirst’s Phase II Future State Report, and with his feedback, we can then move to the implementation planning phase of our work. Funding for the development of the National Socio-Economic Plan was provided by the Government with an initial grant of $500,000 representing 79% of the spend to date.
When our work was initially commissioned by the Premier, he insisted on transformational change and asked that Cabinet Ministers, Parliamentarians and Senior Civil Servants not participate in the project, because he was seeking an external perspective. This approach immediately created an inevitable conflict with those excluded parties, and we are now in a period of engagement with Government Representatives, which requires that we commit to the rigorous discourse necessary to reach a shared view on the way forward.
This does not mean that there is an absence of engagement. The door is open, and we are appreciative of the collaboration. However, accelerating the pace of the uptake of our recommendations is of utmost importance to getting our island on track.
The three conversations that I shared with you earlier – immigration, education and health care – represent progress and serve as a model for the future.
The language I used to describe these conversations was that I am encouraged. My preference would have been to say that I am deliriously enthusiastic or in business speak, from my experience as a banker where deal success was measured by the following gradation— ‘encouraged’——‘confident’—-‘highly confident’. Now you can clearly determine where we are in this journey.
As an eternal optimist who sees opportunity in every difficulty, I remain upbeat regarding our collective ability to achieve success. As Bermudians, we are resourceful, resilient people who have successfully reinvented ourselves throughout the 411 years of our existence.
Let’s get to work and do it again. This anthem can be found in the 1996 song by B.T. Express:
Go on and do it
Do it, do it ‘til you’re satisfied
Whatever it is.
Now on to the second component of my remarks.
OUR ENGAGEMENT & COMMUNICATIONS STRATEGY
Leading transformative change requires building ownership amongst stakeholders and engaging them in its implementation. It is often said that Governments need to be the driver of change. The reality, however, is that the strong call and more importantly, the broad support for transformative change must come from the community – no Government can be successful in implementing transformative initiatives without the community’s backing.
BermudaFirst’s next phase of work includes the expansion of our communications and stakeholder engagement efforts to ensure that there is both a broad understanding of the recommendations that have been put forth, as well as the opportunity to tap into the intellectual capital of the broader community as we work to further develop and refine the implementation plans for those recommendations for which the Premier wishes to proceed.
Let me be clear, our efforts will be far more than just reporting out what the recommendations are through traditional and social media platforms – which we will do. Rather, we must, and will, create the opportunity for all members of our community to come together and proactively engage in the planning process. You will not see the typical approach of holding East, West and Central Town Halls Meetings where presentations are made and a handful of people get on the microphone and everyone just listens.
BermudaFirst will host a series of stakeholder engagement sessions using globally successful approaches that will be led by trained Bermudian facilitators. These will include, but may not be limited to, Worldview Intelligence and the Art of Hosting Conversations that Matter.
The level of collaboration that we, as an entire community, need to have to address all the social and economic issues facing Bermuda is extremely high. And we recognize that all stakeholders will have distinct and varying points of view based on their own life experiences. Worldview Intelligence and Art of Hosting will support us in harnessing the power of the diversity and problem-solving capability of our broader community through open, honest, frank conversation, and by identifying the points of connection amongst all sectors of our community.
These sessions will enable us to bring members of our community from all different walks of life and who hold different perspectives, into a conversation about a specific recommendation, to find common ground, consider things that haven’t been considered before and should lead to practical outcomes over the short and long term. It will also be an opportunity to further the healing and understanding of the hurts that so many in our community have and continue to feel based on historical practices and current challenges.
More specifically, a multi-phased approach with built in check points along the way will be undertaken once the appropriate level of funding is achieved.
In Phase 1 (now): we are in the process of establishing a core team of Bermuda stakeholders who are representative of the diversity within our community and who support and believe in the plan. They will serve as facilitators for the engagement sessions and will all be trained in effective conversational methodologies, as well as Worldview Intelligence and Art of Hosting skills. This is the critical first step to entering a Stakeholder Dialogue initiative.
In Phase 2: we will conduct community and stakeholder engagement sessions throughout the Island, led by the core team of facilitators and will share out the learning from the sessions.
In Phase 3: we will integrate the learnings from the session into the implementation strategy for the BermudaFirst developed National Socio-Economic Plan.
In addition to face to face engagement, we will have a robust communications campaign, including a more fully developed website, an aggressive social media campaign and the use of a broad range of other media outlets to ensure we reach as many in the community as possible across all sectors.
Our intention is to establish and nurture true exchange and trust and enable as many Bermudians as possible to participate in the refinement of the National Socio-Economic Plan. Our approach is rooted in the principles of transparency and participation and recognises the relevance of equity and accountability and interpersonal interaction and communication. It values and considers the contributions of all stakeholder groups equally and the inclusiveness of this approach should strengthen the credibility and legitimacy of the process, since its outputs and outcomes are based on broader stakeholder involvement.
Most importantly, our approach to communications and engagement will set the groundwork for the successful implementation of recommendations that are no doubt going to initially feel very uncomfortable for various members and stakeholder groups within our community.
Here we are at the third element —recommendations on how we should move forward.
A forewarning… these are the thoughts and views of a 73-year-old man who has experienced more yesterdays than I will see tomorrows. Also, I am the most impatient person I know; although within my family, there is fierce competition for this title.
So here we go.
For some time, I have been disappointed by the nature, content and approach to meaningful conversations and problem resolution in Bermuda. In my view, they can best be described as occasions where people are ‘talking AT’ one another. An apt description is to think of ‘talking AT’ as a series of parallel lines where connectivity is nonexistent!
We need to move to the next stage of ‘talking TO’, which is reflected in the same parallel lines but now there are bridges in place where the participants are moving in single file or groups in both directions. This is better than the first instance and there are green shoots in several cases that represent progress.
But there is an even better state that we are capable of achieving… the desired state and the destiny I pray for is for the Island to transform as quickly as we can to ‘talking WITH’— this state is represented by a series of concentric circles where information, ideas, opinions, perspectives and solutions are readily shared in an open, honest, respectful environment.
At the center of this desired state is the specific issue or challenge that all parties are committed to resolve. To some, this state may seem impossible to achieve, but I believe in the power of conversation!
I believe that we can be fact-driven, reach reasonable conclusions and if we disagree, we can do so respectfully. I urge all Bermudians to be open minded in this process, to understand and respect the lived experiences of others. In this way we can do the real work to reach agreement on those critical issues we face as a community.
Lastly – a call to action.
As I stated earlier, time is a very precious commodity. Therefore, we cannot afford delay, procrastination, inaction or deferral. The World around us is changing at light speed. Our geographic isolation, our natural beauty, our unique tri-angular mystique and our past successes do not, and will not, be our salvation.
The only viable and responsible action is work – real work – where we set aside our individual status opinions and engage in rigorous, disciplined conversation. And it will be HARD WORK and at times PAINFUL WORK. How we think, what we do, how we talk and whether we bring respect into our conversations with each other truly does matter… and will make the difference between success and failure.
There is one last thing I would like to touch on before I end today and that is… the solution the Bermuda’s challenges do not rest with any one entity or sector or group. It is both the collective and individual responsibility of every citizen in this country.
Every single one of us, regardless of our personal and professional situation, must be willing to shift our own mindset and more importantly, our behaviors, to that which will support the outcome of having every Bermudian realise the opportunity to benefit from their own economy. This includes things such as:
• taking care of ourselves by making healthy lifestyle choices;
• taking responsibility for ourselves and taking advantage of the opportunities to upgrade skills that currently exist, along with those that will be created, to both strengthen Bermuda’s reputation as a world-class jurisdiction, but also to ensure that more Bermudians are equitably employed; and
• being willing to engage in dialogue with people who have different opinions and perspectives, NOT with view to convince or win the argument, but to be WILLING to be open minded and consider another perspective… to understand where the other person is coming from. This is the formula for us to be able to successfully make progress.
I implore everyone to commit to this work. Bermuda and all Bermudians will be the better for it.
Thank you for your time today and I look forward to coming back to celebrate our success.