Saturday, 11 December 2010

Getting "whizzy" about public services

There are two things we need to do to dig our way out of recession, one is spend less but the other is make more. It often occurs to me that whilst most of my time is taken up deliberating over the first part of that equation very little is spent on the latter. Yet social enterprises are manufacturing, against the odds, and some like Divine chocolate are breaking into International markets where the big gains for the UK economy need to be made. This is important stuff and although a demonstration against unfair International trade agreements or the effects of the rapacious money markets on those who trade Internationally is unlikely to need policing, these issues should be of consuming interest to all of us.

What does resonate is the effect of spending cuts on public services. On Tuesday I was speaking at a Guardian newspaper event for the public sector and following Lord Wei for what must be the third time in recent weeks. We exchanged a laugh about that and although Nat had to go as soon as he had done his bit on Big Society, he has since contacted me to set up a meeting for a more in-depth conversation. I will be able to report on SEL member's views and experience around the Big Society, if any of you have specific observations or issues you want me to raise please let me know. It was a good debate with some great contributions from such respected bodies as the National College and recorded for Radio 4 to be broadcast on January 8th. I hope my views are represented in the round. Whilst I think the need for a new narrative on Big Society and its role in the public sector is pressing, talk of volunteering in that context is particularly unhelpful, the central message of empowering staff and consumers to work together to redesign services and deliver them as independent providers is timely and one we can build on.

On Thursday I participated in one of the most interesting meetings I've ever been to. Our hosts were NESTA and the subject was the future of public services and routes that will maximise social value. Contributions from the Innovation Unit, the Office for Public Management, Local Partnerships the fabulous Paul Corrigan dubbed "the quiet revolutionary" by the Guardian, Ben Lucas Director of 2020 Public Services Trust and NESTA led to some electric brainstorming and some really nifty ideas or "whizzy" as Paul had it. More, much more on that later.

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