Tuesday 14 February 2012

Mutuals and all that...

A rather good lunch yesterday ( in the sense of food for thought rather than sustenance as it was only boring old sanis! ) at Reform. Reform is one of my favourite think tanks because they promote public service reform with zeal and vigour. And goodness knows that is needed! And of course led by the splendid Nick Seddon.

They had gathered together a strong bunch of thinkers and advocates to discuss mutuals. We had Julian Le Grand to discuss where and why and where we have got to with Government. I was busy taking notes till he mentioned he had done a blog so I thought I'd give you some exited highlights from that. Always good to promote fellow bloggers.

He blogged ,

" We are moving into an era where public services are provided by an increasingly diverse range of providers. Social enterprises, charities, mutuals of various kinds, private firms and professional partnerships: all are of growing importance in delivering social and other services, sometimes alongside, but more often instead of, old-style public monopoly providers. It is therefore important to think about what kind of provider is the most appropriate to entrust with the delivery of public services. A key issue here is one of motivation – or beliefs about motivation. If one believes that everyone in the private sector is what David Hume termed a knave – an egoist concerned only with promoting their own well-being – while also believing that everyone in the public or charitable sectors is a knight – a professional altruist imbued with the public service ethos - then one would prefer public services to be delivered by a public sector, or perhaps a charitable, organisation, for the knavish private sector, driven by the selfish concerns of shareholders and managers, will exploit the informational and other provider advantages inherent in many public sector services to the detriment of the service user.

If, on the other hand, one believes that everyone, whether they work in the public, private or charitable sectors, is fundamentally knavish, then one would be most reluctant to let a public service be delivered by a monopoly of any kind. Rather, it would be better to rely upon a competitive market where each individual's self-interest can be harnessed byAdam Smith's 'invisible hand' to serve the public good. In fact, as we know, in the real world motivations are complex. Everyone, whether in the public, private, charitable or social enterprise sectors, is a mixture of knight and knave – although the balance may vary between the sectors.

So the trick is to harness this complex structure of motivation so as to deliver a high quality service: to construct what elsewhere I have called a 'robust' incentive structure, one with knights and knaves pulling in the same direction to deliver a service that benefits both the users of the service and those who work within it.".

And it goes without saying which side I am on. After all , I'm a knight by definition as well as being on the side of the angels.

Incidentally , a tip to all those who believe champagne is life's finest medicine ( as Napolean said ," in victory I deserve it , in defeat I need it!" ). Tesco have their premier cru on offer for half price. It's a great dry champagne and at a very reasonable price , such that even a third sector CEO could get one! No sponsorship was involved in this Blog!!! Though I'd be open to offers , especially if you drop your promotion of the health lottery and push the National Lottery !

And I opened one for dinner last night at home as I was entertaining Seb Elsworth ( fellow brixton resident).

1 comment:

Dan Filson said...

Bucolic! Normal service will resumed as soon as possible, or people will begin to nudge and you'll be on your skates ....