New home for our blog

Our blog has now settled in to its new home on our main website. Any blog posts from June 2011 onwards are housed here

So drop in and have a nose around.

June 2, 2011 at 12:53 pm Leave a comment

What MP3s can teach public services

There are two stereotypes about innovators.  The first is of the outsider, alone in his garden shed (and yes, it is a ‘he’).  The second is of the enormous corporation, with endless resources for R&D.  Of course, both of these have produced amazing innovations, but so have a thousand other types of innovators.  I was reminded of the danger of those stereotypes by a piece from Mckinsey on innovation and the US economy.  Sure, it probably landed in your inbox too, but in case you didn’t read it, here’s the standout line: (more…)

May 25, 2011 at 4:54 pm Leave a comment

The Power of Backward Design for teachers

by Alec Patton

I’ve just been reading an extract from Understanding by Design,by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, which is about what they call ‘teaching for understanding’.

One of the key compononents of this is ‘backward design’, the essence of which is that

Our lessons, units, and courses should be logically inferred from the results sought, not derived from the methods, books, and activities with which we are most comfortable.

They contrast this with what they call ‘content-focused design’, a typical example of which would look like this: (more…)

May 24, 2011 at 9:28 am 2 comments

Announcing M(ums)-Power

We are working with UCLH, Microsoft, Mumsnet and others to launch a new project funded by the Health Foundation looking to improve antenatal care.  Great service makes a difference, and for pregnant women, that difference can mean everything.  But pregnant women do not always experience great service, without knowledge or control at the vital moment.  This project is about changing that – putting power in the hands of Mums and ensuring antenatal services work around their needs and concerns.

Just 38% of mothers believe they had access to good antenatal information and too few feel as supported as they should.  This project will work alongside women, learning from them to create a friendlier, more helpful and more convenient service.  It will work with the people women meet during their pregnancy, to think about what more they could do to help and reassure them.  It will also look at the tools and systems the service uses.  For example, it will look at what can be done through the internet and telephone to provide good information and access to things like test results and appointments. (more…)

May 23, 2011 at 6:04 pm Leave a comment

Innovation in policy-making

We did a small piece of work recently on the role of innovation in central government policy-making.  Arguably, both the challenge departments face and our prescriptions were fairly predictable.  For departments, time and money is tighter than ever and too often innovation can feel like a luxury.  For us, in policy processes of a few months duration, spending a few hours drawing on a broader range of methods and perspectives is a pretty smart move.

Perhaps most interesting was our synthesis of the range of things that limit the use of innovation in government policy-making: (more…)

May 20, 2011 at 12:06 pm Leave a comment

Private-sector spin-ins and innovation

I am always told that you learn a great deal by failing.  It’s true, failure is an intrinsic part of innovation, but you learn far more by succeeding.  Particularly in public service innovation, where failures can affect the public and cost public money.

This thought is prompted by the £300m losses at Southern Cross, which operataes 750 care homes in the UK.  As in health, we know very little about the failure regime in social care.  (more…)

May 20, 2011 at 9:31 am 3 comments

Thinking about Matthew Syed and the ‘Talent Myth’: maybe we should stop looking for the truth, and decide what it’s most helpful to believe

by Alec Patton

Last Wednesday, Radio 4’s Today programme included a not especially edifying debate between Matthew Syed (author of Bounce), and Peter Saunders, author of Social Mobility Myths, chaired by John Humphreys. (more…)

May 16, 2011 at 10:50 am 1 comment

From products to public services

In the future, perhaps driving and heating will be public services.  I have written in the past about the trend that is seeing products turn into services.  People are hiring or borrowing bikes, cars and tools in ways they didn’t before.  Now I have a sense of the two forces behind this trend:

1) Economics.  In the past, the progressive compromise was to let capitalism get on with it and to re-distribute income.  As the wealth distribution reaches Victorian levels of awfulness, there is a strengthening view that this is insufficient.  Both Maurice Glasman and Phillip Blond have argued that the state should redistribute capital and not just cash, ‘capitalising the poor’.

2) Ecology.  As we develop the green technologies that can avert climate catastrophe, we will habitually use equipment that is cheaper to run but more expensive to purchase.  Green boilers and cars will generate lower bills but higher prices.  At our Climate Change Dialogue last week, it was powerfully argued that one important green innovation priority relates to the business models that can make this work.  We need companies that can help people adapt to leasing solar panels and cars to help us transition to this new world.

We should not run together issues of justice and the environment too readily – too often, ideological aspiration is framed as planetary necessity.  At the same time, to renew themselves, progressives must be acutely sensitive to strategies that can help both the planet and disadvantaged people.

By John Craig

May 16, 2011 at 9:19 am 7 comments

Keri Facer’s thought-provoking piece in the TES

by Alec Patton

Professor Keri Facer (one of the instigators of Purpos/Ed, among her various roles and achievements) wrote a very interesting piece for the Times Educational Supplement’s ‘Insight’ section (which, incidentally, often has really exciting stuff, and is worth a weekly visit).

The piece is a defense of the role of schools within the landscape of 21st century education. Context is everything here, and depending who you are, this may sound reactionary, refreshing, or just incredibly obvious. Whatever your response, I’d advise reading the piece – it will open your mind, and make you think twice about what you espouse.

Here’s the heart of the piece:

The reason we need to continue to invest in the school as a physical space and a local organisation is because I believe it may be one of the most important institutions we have to help us build a democratic conversation about the future. A physical, local school where community members are encouraged to encounter each other is one of the last public spaces in which we can begin to build the intergenerational solidarity, respect for diversity and democratic capability needed to ensure fairness in the context of socio-technical change.

Moreover, the public educational institution may be the only resource we have to counter the inequalities and injustice of the informal learning landscape outside school. The school is also potentially the most powerful local institution to help resist possible futures of breakdown and dispossession that seem increasingly possible.

The notion that schools as the the only place where people who share physical proximity without sharing interests or social class ever actually meet each other as equals is disturbing, but also pretty convincing.

May 16, 2011 at 9:18 am Leave a comment

Learning about the ethic of engagement in my neighbourhood

by Raj Cheema

I’ve recently become a committee member of the Tenancy Association in my neighbourhood. Having lived in the area for three and a half years – I thought it was about time I got involved and found out more about the place. Plus – what better way to learn about Localism – than getting involved locally!

Here’s a little about my small neighbourhood in Rotherhithe. There are a handful of large housing associations operating in my area providing housing to a large number of people. You have young professionals, young families and people who have been unemployed for a long while all living next door to each. It’s diverse in a lot of senses, offers a clean, convenient and safe lifestyle – and makes you feels like you’re not in London even though the City is only 20 minutes away on the bus. There is a lot of modern developments – the dockland’s history isn’t that visible.

Our local Tenancy Association has been dwindling in the last year – engagement from the neighbourhood is at an all time low – in fact for the last six months it’s been pretty redundant and if they hadn’t found some new members – they would have got rid off it. In the past, the TA has done some tremendous work in campaigning for the interests of the residents against the Housing Associations. And realising the benefits of having a TA – the Housing Associations are keen to back the TA and maintain the bridge of communication between them and their residents.

The interesting thing is that people in the neighbourhood ‘want’ to keep the TA but don’t really want to get ‘involved’ or engage in matters that TA deals with on their behalf. Previous members have found that people aren’t interested in engaging and turning up to meetings even when the local MP is in town.

For me the TA reflects the level of apathy inherent in most neighbourhoods. And I want to find out why this is – rather than make presumptions. Is it because:
a) Residents don’t really understand their relationship with the TA – or the TA hasn’t been good at cultivating the right kind of relationship with residents
b) There aren’t any real issues of concerns that residents think the TA could deal with
c) If there are issues of concern – then residents think the TA can’t ‘act’ on these

In the next couple of months – I’ll be knocking on the doors of my neighbours to find out what they think of the TA, whether there are issues that concern them and what they think the TA could do. My goal is to get people involved and engage with the TA so that it channel its efforts to dealing with problems that concern residents. I reckon it’ll be a learning curve – I don’t know yet whether it’ll be a steep one or a small one. But I have a feeling I’m in for a bumpy ride – it’s OK, I have my seat belt on.

Stay tuned if you’re interested in finding out what progress I make in my new role as a ‘localist’.

May 12, 2011 at 4:46 pm Leave a comment

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