Tuesday, June 14, 2011

10 steps to transformation


The public spending reductions set out by the Comprehensive Spending Review present a real challenge to public service professionals. How do I preserve the quality of my service whilst achieving cuts of this scale? How can services continue to protect the vulnerable in society and employ the best staff when resources are so tight? These are difficult times. But our research and practical experience at NESTA tells us that challenge shouldn’t preclude innovation. Indeed, the best way to make savings in public services is to think more creatively about what you’re trying to achieve, and what resources you can use to get there. Do tell us what you think – we’re keen to hear your ideas and experience too. 

If you take one thing away from this series, it’s the insight that the only way to make savings sustainably is to start from how services can be better, not from how to save money.

An important challenge now for chief executives and service leaders is how to create the right environment for radical innovation across the organisation, supported with the right balance of risk and reward. But this doesn’t mean creating an innovative culture for its own sake, but a culture where staff feel empowered and supported to affect change and adapt their own practice.

As cuts are made and pressure on public services mounts, it is increasingly recognised that charities, voluntary groups and enterprises will be central in creating the public services of the future.

Meaningful community participation can be a powerful way to respond to social challenges and to prompt redesign of public services. With appropriate support, communities can and want to get involved.

Partnership with service users is part of the day job for many frontline staff. Teachers can’t teach if students don’t learn. Doctors can’t heal if patients don’t comply with treatments. And yet public services are rarely designed with these principles in mind. The implicit assumption – in design terms at least – is that service users don’t want to play more of a role, and that it’s only the domain of professionals to take decisions and direct resources.

Look at your services through different eyes – where are you wasting resources that could help you be more effective?

There’s a perception of innovation as something that’s expensive, or only the task of experts. This doesn’t need to be the case. We’ve come across countless examples of innovation in public services driven by the staff who work in them using low-cost tools and speedy processes.

Cuts of an unprecedented scale require radical new thinking of the resources available. 

Following last week’s Spending Review, it’s likely you will feel under pressure to cut new approaches or those that at first glance appear marginal and low impact. But it is these approaches that will save money and alleviate pressure on public services in the future.

Last week’s Comprehensive Spending Review has made the challenge critically clear: how can we save money in public services without significant harm to society?