Why sharing is the future: A public administration perspective on the mesh economy

Tutik Rachmawati

It is common knowledge that in the study of public administration, initiatives for improving the performance of public organisations are very much borrowed from the private sector. In 1993, Osborne & Gaebler, for instance, established ten principles to reach entrepreneurial government. They offered ways to develop entrepreneurial, flexible and outcome-oriented organisations in the public sector.

Furthermore, the concept of New Public Management, which emphasises economic rationalism and private sector management practices, has also been adapted across nations. The implementation of information technology into business practices has also driven public organisations to launch e-government to transform the way they engage with citizens and business. Recently, under the ideas of entrepreneurial government and New Public Management, the duties of many public organisations have been commissioned to other parties, including in the private sector.

It can be argued that the principles of Mesh Economy can appropriately be applied in public organisation for several reasons. Firstly, the principle of partnership and other parties’ involvement. Strategic Commissioning in public organisations stresses the importance of partnership and involvement of other parties. It aims at reducing overlap and duplications, and further creating scope for efficiency and savings. This is an idea that is very much in line with Mesh Economy which highlights business operation through a collaborative approach to providing organisations with better ideas that then allows customers to receive flexible and more sustainable products and services.

Secondly, the principle of sustainability and the global anti-waste approach in the Mesh Economy is similar to the principle of sustainable management of services and assets demands in strategic commissioning. Strategic commissioning focuses on the quality and value for money – not necessarily at lowest cost- so that more is achieved with less in an environmentally friendly way.

Thirdly, consumer driven free economy in the Mesh Business is similar with co-production in strategic commissioning of public organisations. While the Mesh Business sends people recommendations and/or advertising messages based on their personal behavioural patterns, co-production service users know things that many professionals do not know – hence services can be produced more effectively. Co–production conceives the services users as active asset-holders rather than passive consumers. Therefore, both Mesh Business and Co-production empower and build trust in customers/consumers. Customers in Mesh Business build trust by disclosing personal behavioural patterns, while in co-production users, citizens, partners and voters build trust in the work of the public sector including the risks of losing the shared assets with other parties.

Sharing is the future business of private sector, and it will also be the future of public organisations as both share common characteristics. However, there are lessons to be learned for public organisations from the Mesh Economy.

Firstly, the mesh economy is based on strong relations with customers, as it is through more frequent contact with customers that a greater flow of customer data is produced which at the end makes the business successful by making more profit. Even though profit is not the raison d’être of the public organisation, it is still valid to have good relations with citizens. Public organisations also generate large amounts of citizen data which eventually will be useful to perfect the public organisation’s performance in providing public services. Public organisations need to learn from the Mesh Business on how to utilize the ongoing connections with citizens and to use citizen data constructively to serve citizens better.

Secondly is the issue of managing resources efficiently. The rule of thumb in mesh business is ‘ownership is out, access is in’. It means that mesh business can and does deploy assets they don’t own but can easily access. It is rightful for public organisations to apply this as the potential for efficiency and saving a huge amount of money is high. Learning from this will enable public organisations to channel their budget for the betterment of public service provision. Furthermore, as public organisations, governments and local governments suffer from financial burden, the need to share rather than buy and own is more appropriate.

Thirdly, public organisations will need to learn from the mesh economy on how to design a public services that is more resilient so that they could last longer even after multiple uses by different members or users. Every public service needs to meet the four criteria of mesh products: it should be durable (well-built and safe), flexible (accommodates different users), repairable (has standardized parts that allow easy repair) and sustainable (reduces natural resources waste).

To conclude, sharing as the core concept of the mesh economy should be applied in public organisation settings. Its core principles are needed for public entrepreneurs to level up public organisations’ performance.

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Tutik Rachmawati is a PhD student at INLOGOV, University of Birmingham, and is a Japan-Indonesian Presidential Scholarship Awardee. She has research interests in public entrepreneurship and local economic development.

This post previously appeared on Puzzle Minds.

One thought on “Why sharing is the future: A public administration perspective on the mesh economy

  1. Why is this approach fundamentally flawed? Because it is.

    1. We are talking about Public Service. (if you don’t accept that, then fine, I’m wrong).
    2. The public is everybody, in 2 sets: set A ‘all the people that fit the criteria of a standardised service’ and set B ‘all the people that don’t fit into set A’.
    3. NPM seeks to serve only set A, IMHO.
    4. If we accept 1, and 2, then ‘repairable (has standardized parts that allow easy repair) ‘ is impossible, and therefore the proposed ‘mesh model’ fails.

    Public service, increasingly, is forced to meet the needs of set B, at enormous expense, because set A has been given to contractors to profit from.

    Clearest example is probably the predicted effect of Royal Mail backdoor privatisation on the price of sending your granny on Orkney an Xmas card from London.

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