Now more than ever, we work alongside leaders who are committed to transforming their organisations and services, all with the aim of making the lives of residents and citizens better. Despite resources depleting at pace while social problems increase in scale and complexity.
Facing a global recession in the middle of a pandemic, we know this trend to do more with less will only continue. It would be easy to feel overwhelmed, but the leaders I know continue to portray the opposite. These are the people working with passionate teams and residents to reimagine their organisations, their services and their places, trying every day to support change in an age of huge uncertainty and change.
Unfortunately, we continue to see incremental change when we know that large scale, at pace change is needed. We’re maxed out on incremental change and the need for radical change is clear.
We have an opportunity ahead of us to set up a new model which seeds and keeps innovation firmly in the public realm. Using entrepreneurial approaches, we can work together to not only deliver better outcomes for citizens for less but ideate, create and build technology-driven, sustainable services that remain in public hands.
Rebooting public services for the 21st century
Conventional wisdom is that the private sector is best placed to drive radical change with its ecosystem of funders, appetite for risk and perceived ability to attract the best and brightest minds. In the private sector, digital companies have disrupted whole industries. Tech startups are usurping the incumbents, improving experiences and reducing costs before expanding and completely transforming the landscape around them.
We’re talking about the likes of Netflix who started a new model for movie rentals, turned streaming platform for TV and is now one of the world’s largest producers of media. Or Airbnb, which got its start renting a spare room and air mattress, turned one of the largest travel booking platforms and is now moving into building physical hotels and housing. Two organisations who saw an opportunity in a market, and have gone on to reinvent a full-stack service.
The entrepreneurial approach has driven rapid innovation in some fields, but private sector outsourcing for the public realm has rarely led to truly radical innovation. That doesn’t stop the practice, and profits remain in private hands. Old models of innovation, either internal and incremental or left to the private sector, aren’t working.
The public sector can, and does, drive innovation. And yet, we continue to see private profits take off from the runway of publicly funded innovation, the state receiving little of the financial reward for the private sector’s increased role in public service delivery.