Innovation Unit presents Radical Efficiency at Institute for Government.

May 18, 2010 at 4:15 pm 2 comments

By Peter Baeck

Today Sarah Gillinson and Matthew Horne presented Innovation units work on Radical Efficiency for a mixed group of senior civil servants. What was particularly interesting was the feedback and discussion around one of the recommendations in our upcoming Radical Efficiency report

Manage risks, don’t just avoid them

And the implictions Radical Efficiency would have for risk in public services.

The cases we analyze in the report are all evidence of how the resources in local communities through the right insights can be converted to public resources, and thereby help to improve the quality of services by personalizing them as well as driving down costs due to efficiencies gained. But doing this requires a different approach to public services and how civil servants see them selves.  To use these resources public services has to be opened up and a new understanding of what public services the community and third sector, or in Robin Murrays terms the ‘social economy’, can do better than the public sector. Patient Hotels in Sweden, one of the case studies we analyze in the Radical Efficiency report are an excellent example of letting go. In Patient Hotels the family is allowed and expected to take care of their relatives, which has improved the quality of services for patients who would be taken care of by their family, and reduced costs by 60 pct. Due to freed up time for nurses and doctors as well as better use of hospital facilities.

In Sweden the hospital and its doctors understood, that although they have the final responsibility and therefore carry a large part of the risk, they would have to redefine their own role, in order for the relatives do what they do best and for the hospital to save money.

As Robert Whiteman, newly appointed managing director of the Improvement & Development Agency, described it in his feedback to the presentation, he recently met furious opposition from gardeners when he in the Guardian suggested that maybe we should let users run parks. Their argument was that user wouldn’t know how to take care of the parks. But as Robert Whiteman rightly pointed out, then he is able to take care of plants and trees in his own private garden, why would he loose this ability because it is in a public space?

Why wouldn’t users take care of the trees in the park or their family in the patitent hotels? The experts would still be there in case users fail, or don’t have the capacity, and the public sector with its specialist expertise will still need to cure patients and build bridges.

But in order for us to move from the old to a new and more radically efficient public service, these needs to be opened up, and opened up in such a way that they are accessible and adaptive to users needs and preferences.

Radical Efficiency is in this way not about just outsourcing public services to drive efficiencies forward. It is about sourcing in the input from users and local communities in to public services, and use these input to deliver different, better and more affordable public services.

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Entry filed under: Public Services, Radical Efficiency.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. alecpatton  |  May 19, 2010 at 6:30 am

    Really interesting examples. In the states. It’s worth noting that the idea of volunteers taking care of parks isn’t a new one – there are lots of one-off events where the public is asked to give their time to clearing paths, planting, etc… the distinction is that the public are given responsibility. But I suppose context is key with the objections from gardeners – anybody would object when faced with the prospect of losing their job!

    Reply
  • 2. thirup  |  May 19, 2010 at 8:35 am

    Interesting, some best practice for the park reformers to use in their battle to reclaim the trees -)
    I agree, of course people will reject anything that threatens their jobs. But the fact is that in current financial situation, some people will have to be made redundant in order to balance the budgets – which will or course mean some tough choices for managers in the public sector.]
    But the questions then becomes how to deliver the same or better serices without these people, which is on of the things that we try to address with radical efficiency.

    Reply

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