The innovation imperative: why radical innovation is needed to reinvent public services for the recession and beyond

Document type
Discussion paper
Harris, Michael; Albury, David
Date of publication
1 March 2009
Social Policy
Social welfare
Material type

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This report argues that the recession makes radical innovation in public services a necessity. Without bold new approaches public services will be over-stretched by the short-term demands of the downturn and overwhelmed by the long-term challenges of the future. Public services will have to deliver significantly better performance at significantly lower cost. The choice is simple in form but complex in reality. Public services can emerge from the recession having deferred imaginative responses to the major economic and social challenges faced and with a weaker collective capacity for innovation – or can respond by putting innovation to work to meet these challenges now, supported by a more systematic and robust approach to innovation in public services.

To achieve the latter, a new way of innovating in public services is needed – a rigorous experimentation which encourages and embraces local solutions. It is necessary to bring together the range of innovators who are already at the forefront of finding new solutions, across the public sector, private companies and social enterprises. Most crucially, it is necessary to put users, consumers and citizens at the heart of innovation in public services as never before, as a force for change and as partners in designing and delivering services. And it is necessary to strengthen the methods of discovering, developing, and diffusing innovations – including a greater capacity outside of existing organisations to support great ideas from inspiration to implementation.

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