Co-production is a new way of looking at how we produce social outcomes. All public (and indeed private) services rely on an element of user contribution – they are not merely delivered to the user. Private sector services have long since harnessed the user contribution to reduce costs (in popular or less popular ways) and the public sector needs to carry out the same analysis just as explicitly. By understanding the importance of co-production and seeking to maximise it we can reduce the cost of public services and also improve outcomes by harnessing wider contributions.
Whilst technical expertise and training is vital in many areas of public service, the idea of professional experts simply delivering services to passive consumers has now had its day. We need to articulate a new notion of “creating outcomes together” rather than “delivering services to” and to think through how best to apply this notion at the local level.
We know that some services seem to be better at encouraging a contribution from users, for example park rangers and keepers encouraging volunteers committed to “their open space”. Can we replicate this in other place-based services by changing the role of public servants?
A key part of a future with less need and demand for public services is people changing their behaviour, either to make better choices in terms of their own quality of life or to do less harm to the places where they live or the communities they live in. We also need to know what kind of leaders will be best suited to this new style of public management. Is collaborative leadership essential? What can we learn from the application of “nudge” principles here and abroad and what balance of incentives and enforcement of regulations will achieve the best outcomes? What are the implications for how we communicate and how we organise public services?
Investing in prevention
Some areas where prevention can lead to significant savings are obvious: acute health services being prevented by better quality and availability of social care is the most well-known, but others include interventions to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour and rehabilitate offenders and community repairs services to prevent housing maintenance issues becoming more serious.We are interested in developing an analysis, or “map” of preventative services and potential areas for more prevention along with the related savings and opportunity costs.
Service integration – “Whole People” and “Whole Place”
It is now widely accepted that our local public services need to work more closely together and that budgets and organisational structures need to be aligned or pooled to support this. Services should focus not on their respective functions or professional silos but on the “whole person” or “whole place” they are serving – providing an integrated approach to real needs rather than separate, standard services.
We want to capture the learning from the range of “whole people” and “whole place” experiments that have taken place in recent years, identifying the key ingredients of successful integrated services and the areas where they will make the most difference and deliver the best value for money.
Commissioning for fairness, prosperity and democracy
Commissioning from external service deliverers is likely to continue growing in the years ahead. But we want to develop a more sophisticated approach to commissioning that is grounded in social value and stimulates a diverse and local economy of public service, rather than supporting a shrinking oligopoly of large corporations.
Our Business Charter for Social Responsibility has already set out what we expect of our contractors. We are keen to develop this further by considering how we can take forward a social value approach more radically.
Support services for the 21st Century
Whilst we have made significant savings in recent years and completely transformed some of our administrative functions, we are clear that further efficiencies in back office support services can and must be made, in order to limit cuts in front-line services as far as possible. We also need to rethink the role of our strategic functions. A differently functioning council may need to be supported in a radically different way. In future the council must be able to deliver challenging priorities for Birmingham with much less resource. We need to identify how these services will need to change in order to support a differently functioning council.
Traditional funding mechanisms in public services need to be reviewed. There is a need to open up new vehicles for capturing resource to fund services including social finance trusts, neighbourhood trusts, external funding, timebanking, volunteering and social enterprises.