Thursday 4 February 2010

More Ideas from the Guardian Summit...

Lots of great thoughts buzzing around about the future of public services in an era of retrenchment.

Andrew Forster, who is Chairing the 2020 Commission into Public Services, said what we need is a move to a "powerful public" away from a centralised, producer dominated public service. This led onto a fascinating dialogue on democratising commissioning.

One of the problems of our current system for commissioning is that it is run by and for commissioning professionals. They often take the view that it is somehow improper to involve groups that might actually provide the service, let alone citizens. And if you have ever met those in that profession they do not always strike one as the most innovative of folk! Process is often regarded as the goal, rather than outcomes. And innovation is seen as deeply suspicious as often difficult to measure.

So a new campaign for ACEVO I suspect; "democratising commissioning". But we better think of a more snappy title? Ideas please!

I get an email reminding me that today is World Cancer Day around the world. It tells me about a campaign:

"to help raise awareness of how we can reduce our chances of developing cancer, we are running a "Cancer can be prevented too" campaign, encouraging people to stop smoking, limit their alcohol intake, be conscious about their weight and what they eat, and to take regular exercise. All these things add up.".

This rather chimed with one of the messages from today's summit. Julie Mellor from Price Waterhouse was launching "Capable Communities". Click here for a link to the website.

A striking point was that those people with asthma who are involved in advice sessions and educational guidance which helps support their own management of their condition have led to a 69% reduction in visits to the GP.

This makes a superb case for how we can introduce cost saving in the NHS through resourcing third sector bodies to take up more work in prevention and support for long term conditions.

Allison Ogden-Newton, Social Enterprise London and my Vice Chair, is here and makes an excellent, thought provoking contribution on what is emerging as a theme here! How we need more social enterprise and third sector solutions. We need to move from thinking this is a good idea to willing it to happen.

That is right. It's time to move from rhetoric about more third sector involvement to action making it happen. As I commented to Julie Mellor who had said she was not proposing handing it all over to civil society; why not? Why assume that the last 60years of delivery by the public sector is the right answer, as opposed to the previous many centuries of third sector delivery?

The great Michael Bichard posed an interesting question. What is the driver for change in organisations? It is often cuts or individual power or organisational changes. How often is it client driven? In the public sector rarely.

And he posed a challenge for the third sector. Do we put organisational need before our clients; because if we didn't we might be looking at mergers and alliances more than we do. A pertinent point I suspect.

And finally, the new head of Local Government's IdEA posed the thought that we need to ensure, "professionals are on tap, not on top!". Not sure on that!

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