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Event: Innovating out of the Recession

The next decade is likely to be one of acute fiscal austerity, in which government will inevitably have to do more for less. In these difficult times, a common approach may be to freeze new developments and put innovations onto the back shelf. However, as the Cabinet Secretary Gus O’Donnell has recently indicated, this is exactly the wrong thing to do – the fiscal pressures are too severe to be sat out using unchanged approaches, for then the pain of real service cuts will only be maximized. The challenges of achieving modern public services are too urgent to make sitting on a cutback status quo a sustainable option. Innovation from inside and outside the public sector will be critical in finding new, more cost effective solutions to existing problems.

The LSE Public Policy Group
(in conjunction with the Institute for Government) is holding a series of seminars looking at the scope for innovation across government. These seminars bring together practitioners from central and local government, academia and other sectors to explore how innovation can drive us to do more with less and be more efficient with what we have. Our speakers have included Sir Richard Mottram, Jim Easton, NHS National Director for Improvement and Efficiency at the Department of Health, Sir Michael Bichard, Irene Lucas, Director General at Communities and Local Government, and a memorable contribution from Peter Gilroy OBE, Chief Executive of Kent County Council (KCC). They have covered innovation in areas such as the Public Services and Public Sector Productivity, Local Government and in the NHS.

Peter Gilroy impressed our audience with KCC’s recent innovations and the savings that have been estimated from these. Telehealth, while initially subject to a great deal of scepticism from local health providers, has saved £1.5million on bed days alone in a year. Kent TV, which is an online showcase for Kent, has saved up to £200,000 on publications, and allows people from outside the region to take a look as what’s going on in Kent. The Kent Card is equally ambitious - it’s a new credit card agreed with RBS that has agreed, pre-loaded, amounts, and this simplifies direct payments extensively. This has already led to an estimated £2million per year in savings. Building from this is the planned ‘Gateway’ Card. It is estimated that 42 cards across the public sector are currently needed to access entitlements; the ‘Gateway’ Card will give access to library, leisure and care services, all in one.

There are many synergies and points of agreement between what Kent has already accomplished and a particular forefront model of where UK and other advanced countries are heading in terms of public management. This model has been summarized in the influential book Digital Era Governance (Oxford University Press, 2008), written by me with Helen Margetts (Oxford) and PPG colleagues. It stresses that for public managers it is now long overdue to move out from the idea of a ‘digital channel’ that supplements older modes of public service provision, and into a ‘digital world’ where increasingly citizens expect to interact (all the time, on everything) with government primarily by digital and digital-plus-other means.

What the idea of ‘digital era governance’ (or DEG) stresses are three themes that are already very clear and evidence in Kent’s extensive innovations and pioneering achievement:

- Reintegration – pulling back together services that have become grievously fragmented in the 1990s and early noughties.

- Needs-based holism – which puts the citizen or the customer first, and builds services around their needs, and not just administrative traditions or convenience. And…

- Digitalization – moving as many services as possible online, in ways that citizens can directly access and control themselves (a kind of ‘do-it-yourself-wherever–possible’ form of government.

Our forthcoming programme of seminars will continue our comprehensive look at innovation. In January, in our seminar New Strategies in Human Resources; we will look at how we can move towards a public sector with fewer but better staff, especially in the context of digitalization. Our other topics in 2010 will include Rethinking IT and shared services procurement, Innovating through Public Sector Information, Innovating out of Digital Exclusion and Innovating through Learning and Knowledge Transfer.

We’d welcome other Kent staff and citizens to these sessions, and to keep an eye on our website for further updates please go to - http://www.lse.ac.uk/collections/LSEPublicPolicy/EventsandSeminars.htm

If you would like further information please contact Chris Gilson at c.h.gilson@lse.ac.uk

To learn more about Digital era governance

- A special thank you to Patrick Dunleavy (London School of Economics) for the blog post.
Picture: A green arrow with coins on it striking the ground with a man running in front of it with a lightbulb above his head and paint brushes in his hand, with thanks to colinwhite for publishing on Flickr under the Creative Comms license.

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