Thinking for a change: what are the game changers for our public services?Thinking for a change is what Lord Rutherford, recognised as the “father” of atomic physics, succinctly argued when he said:

We’ve got no money so we’ve got to think.

Public services are facing unprecedented pressures. Demand for services is increasing in a context of significant budget reductions. The pressure has moved beyond finding service cuts. Different strategies are going to be needed. One phrase that is beginning to be used as part of the new thinking for a change is “game changer”.  A game changer changes the rules of the game, tests underlying assumptions and creates opportunity.

Thinking for a change: Game Changers for our Public Services?

Here we consider 5 prime candidates for game changers, all with a common thread.

The common thread is to engage and involve the citizen customer more in owning and being a part of the service from which they benefit. This means there will be:

Less services…

… that treat people as passive recipients of services designed and delivered by someone else”.

More emerging practice, emphasising that …

… the people who use the service have assets which can improve those services, rather than simply needs which must be met.”

(Co-production: an emerging evidence base for Adult Social Care Transformation. SCIE Research Briefing 2009).

Thinking for a change: an idea who’s time has come?

The common thread is technically referred to as co-production where customers jointly are engaged in the service design, development and crucially delivery. In many of our public services this makes sense because for the services to be effective they require customers to be fully involved. School’s need children to engage with their learning and health needs patients to be involved in their recovery. But it also makes sense in the context of reduced budgets. Can co-production also help by moving more responsibility for the service delivery to the customer/service user/patient?

Whilst there are reasons that have prevented or delayed co-production strategies from becoming more widespread: that may be about to change. There are emerging ideas which may make co-production a more viable proposition in the future. Co-production fits with a number of other key strategies being proposed to respond differently to the financial downturn, and produce creative and radically different solutions: new thinking for a change. The strength of the different intervention strategies may well be in their deployment in a complementary manner.

Fresh Thinking for a Change: 4 game changers

Game changer strategies:

  • Community budgets, or whole place budgets. Taking a wider perspective of how public money is spent bridges the issue of one service incurring the cost whilst another service reaps the reward of a co-production approach. Thinking about public spend across services is an important element to reaping the benefits of co-production approaches.
  • Customer-driven approaches. The growing focus on designing and delivering services around the customer and across services is central to a co-production philosophy. A customer-driven approach means thinking customer and seeing services as a whole as the customer experiences them.
  • Early intervention strategies. Catching issues/problems early with services and solutions that are focused on prevention, and promotion. Building resilient independence also relies heavily on the collaboration of the customer. Early intervention focuses on what needs to be done and when. The way it is done is often described in terms that meet the principles of co-production.
  • Nudge. Behaviour change; using what we know from social sciences points towards the ability to make small changes to our context, which have a big impact on many of the decisions and choices we make. Using some nudge techniques alongside co-production can encourage participation, commitment and help to build a stronger sense of community.

When you bring new thinking for a change together you have the potential for game changers to transform public services.

To encourage different thinking about our public services we have developed workshops and resources to facilitate leaders and managers to determine the game changers for their organisation. Contact us for more details.

New thinking for a change may well need to focus on the possible game changers for our public services.