Public services, including those commissioned and delivered by local government, have changed substantially in the past ten years. There have been changes in service delivery mechanisms, in relationships between users and services, in organisational structures and in partnership arrangements. It appears likely that the next ten years will bring at least as much change, if not more. One thing is clear: the old model of public services – people expect and services provide – is no longer tenable. The growing gap between demand and resources has been described in terms of ‘the jaws of doom’. That is one way of looking at the future. Another way is to see the opportunities which we have to renegotiate ‘the deal’ between people and public services.
INLOGOV is working with a wide range of local authorities and other bodies to test a new model of public services. The model draws together many of the themes in current debates about the ways in which the public sector is likely to have to change, in particular, how public services can manage demand, build capacity and achieve better mutual understanding, through the development of stronger relationships with communities as well as through co-production and behaviour change. The purpose of this model is to support public service leaders – both political and managerial – to make better sense of a complex world.
INLOGOV’s model brings together the disparate cultural, structural, political and financial challenges facing local government and wider public services into an integrated framework, which takes account not only of individual drivers of change but also of the inter-relationship between changes in public services and the wider political and social context in which those changes are taking place. If we have a coherent model which reflects current and future realities it will be easier for us to explore possible solutions together.
We have concentrated on the challenges and opportunities for local government, in partnership with other local and national institutions. That is not because we think local government is the most important player on the public service stage, it is because we think it plays a unique role as a convenor and mediator between conflicting interests within complex networks of players. It is in this role that it can provide the creativity and connectivity to help shape solutions to the seemingly intractable problems of rising demand and falling resources.
The key drivers for a new model are: building stronger relationships with and between individuals and communities, increasing co-production of better outcomes by focusing on capacity, as well as need, and changing expectations and behaviours. Before we can deliver these benefits we will need to change the way we think, plan and act. There are many good, small scale examples of innovation which are delivering real change but now we need to scale up change to have a real impact – reducing dependency, building confidence and improving outcomes. These are not quick fixes, so the sooner we start and the more energy we invest the sooner we’ll be able to achieve a sustainable relationship between public services and the communities they serve.
This blog post summarises some of the key messages in:
Why do we need a new model for public services? By Catherine Staite
Ch. 1 in Staite, C. (ed.)(2013). Making sense of the future: can we develop a new model for public services? (Birmingham: University of Birmingham/INLOGOV).
Catherine Staite is the Director of INLOGOV. She provides consultancy and facilitation to local authorities and their partners, on a wide range of issues including on improving outcomes, efficiency, partnership working, strategic planning and organisational development, including integration of services and functions.