Friday 5 February 2010

Summitry thinking!

What fun to be sat next to a top Local Government official at the Guardian dinner last night. When I had explained what I did and what the acronym "ACEVO" meant he started telling me how difficult they find it to recruit volunteers! The conversation was short lived and I was off to watch that marvellous BBC programme, "Silent Witness".

A snap shot of how many in public service view our sector.

Now back to the Summit and a superb debate led by Philip Blond (as of the so called Red Tory tendency) and the great Craig Deardon-Philips. Blond's presentation on civic companies and mutualism was fascinating. A challenging agenda for change but what I find encouraging is that the thinkers on the Conservative side have a real interest and commitment to changing public service and empowering the third sector. (ACEVO) will be doing work with him on all this).

And Craig nicely complimented this when he talked about how commissioning is captured by officials who think that EU rules and procurement regulations prohibit them from ever talking to the actual providers of the service. Why?

Charles Leadbeater challenged the State to think differently and from a different vantage point. If you approach public service reform from the perspective of improving delivery you make but marginal change. If you think from the perspective of a community or a citizen, or "sideways", you start thinking radically. Perhaps whole scale redesign or change to what is delivered. If you think of what the country needs to do on ageing you get a different answer to when you look to reorganise old people's services in Local Government.

He talked of the need for "disruptive innovation", not marginal cosy innovation at the margin. How right this is. If I had a pound for every time I hear a public servant talk about how the sector can be so "innovative" I'd be buying up Bollinger. In fact what they mean is we do lovely interesting things at the margin which will probably never challenge the consensus.

Statistics can be telling. We know that the third sector offers radically different ways of tackling re-offending. Our results in keeping ex offenders from crime are staggering. So what does the MoJ spend on commissioning services from the third sector? 2%. Yes, that's 2%.

So if you want to know where to start on public spending cuts look to the MoJ budget. As we have the worst record in Europe on re-offending and the highest incarceration rate the need for the radical approach of Charlie is startlingly obvious!

Jonathan Kestenbaum, the CEO of NESTA gave a superb final speech and said he senses that the public service is "on the cusp of enormous change". Let's hope that is so!

And finally, in between all this buzzing idea forming speech listening stuff I still dealt with calls from Nick Hurd MP and Angela Smith MP, press and gossip from the home front! I need a rest! Charlbury here I come.

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