A Need for New Deliverers – Could you pro-sume?

September 15, 2009 at 4:31 pm 1 comment

By Peter Baeck

The impending squeeze on public spending in the face of growing social pressures makes incremental changes and efficiency measures in public services no longer plausible. Radical social innovation is needed to respond to these pressures. In many cases it will require systemic innovation – changing the way in which whole systems of production and service are conceived and delivered or the need for them avoided. (Robin Murray; Danger and opportunity – crisis and the new social economy)

There is a need to change the way we define who delivers public service and how this is done. Robin Murray argues that there is a discrepancy between 21st century society and the way 21st century public sector institutions deliver public service. This meaning that many of the institutions developed in 20th century were not designed for the 21st century context, its new challenges such as climate change and obesity, and different societal structures such as online communities. Dealing with this discrepancy could be one of the essential tools in dealing with the financial crisis and the public spending squeeze that has been forecast as a respond to it.

Technology in particular has altered some of society’s building blocks. Communication and knowledge sharing via the internet and mobile technology, engaging in online community’s, creating energy through sun and wind and conducting remote surgery with the help of robots are few examples of some of these alterations.

Murrays argument is that we need to learn from the sectors that has developed these new alternatives to the common understanding on how we interact and deliver service, and integrate lessons learned in to public sector reforms.

In parallel to this Murray emphasizes the potential to public service delivery in utilizing resources already existing within communities and the third sector. The task for the public sector is to bridge the gap between these. One example on how this can be done is Patient Hospitals, where the caring of patients before and after their need of intensive care is being done by their families, with the assistance of nurses and doctors. Another is the municipiality of Copenhagen County engaging 2000 families in arranging the UN cop15 climate summit, by having these families host guests who will attend or cover the summit. This in turn means that fewer hotels will have to be build in Copenhagen, which both benefits the economy and the environment.[1]

public services come face to face with citizens not as passive consumers, but as active agents – who may need incentives, resources and skills and a whole range of support and connections that existing services may not have the resources to provide. (Murray. P

One way to encourage citizens to engage in public services is by personalizing these and giving citizens a degree of ownership, and thereby shifting the users of public services from passive to active. Murray, Inspired by A. Toffler, labels this new type of consumer and producer in one as a Prosumer. This meaning that the consumer through its consumption is at the same time giving something back to society, by engaging in adding value to the service delivered or making it more effective. One way of facilitating ‘pro-suming’ is creating platforms that allow for its users to influence and co-design the product. One very straightforward example of this is Velux’s ‘Home for Life’houses’. The houses are CO2 neutral and can at times produce excess energy that it will send back in to the energy network. Another is public sector Wiki’s where users in online communities such as netdoctor.co.uk discuss and suggest how to improve public services, and prevent potential costs to society, such as disease or crime.

Inspired by open source systems such as Linux Charlie Leadbeater argues that these new platforms must be designed for ‘We-Think’ making them facilatators of mass collaboration and sharing. Leadbeaters point is that a change in organizational culture and setup, where the platform is not about very strict management, but is instead designed to set agents free by allowing them to act more indepently under a broader umbrella consisting of the institutions goals and obligations, will make the organizaation more efficient and valuable.

 Through this approach the organization becomes a basic core that allows its users, providers and consumers, to constantly adapt and develop the grid that evolves around it.

Do you as a user of public goods see areas where you could not just use, but through your consumption give something back to society?

[1] http://jp.dk/indland/article1810275.ece – Her er klimatopmødets første succes

[3] http://www.velux.com/Sustainable_living/Model_Home_2020/The_experiments/Home_for_Life


Entry filed under: Innovation Policy, Local Innovation, Regional Bodies, Third Sector Innovation.

Wikipedia entries: the good, the bad, the sparse Nights with Impresarios, Days at the Races…

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. alecpatton  |  September 16, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    In the words of TS Eliot, “And should I then pro-sume?/And how should I begin?”

    The word I’ve seen used for this sort of thing is ‘co-construction’. I don’t know much about it, but what I do know is contained in this blog post: http://thelrtproject.blogspot.com/2009/06/co-production-useful-for-collecting.html, whichi s about an article that looks at co-production in terms of education.


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