The recently published report by the Work Foundation is to be welcomed, emphasising as it does the importance of the public sector carrying out its own innovations, rather than relying on the private sector to innovate through outsourcing.
When, oh when, will we stop seeing outsourcing as a panacea for public services advocated usually by people who have most to gain from outsourcing? In the right circumstances outsourcing can be beneficial but sometimes the benefits claimed for outsourcing just cannot be believed.
However, getting the public sector to innovate is not always that easy. There are a number of key features which will be needed if innovation is really going to thrive.
Support from the top for innovation is vital – not disdain as sometimes happens. So is a shared responsibility for innovation across the organisation, and a positive attitude towards risk taking – particularly from central government. Not all innovations will succeed as the private sector knows only too well.
There also needs to be a climate which encourages experimentation and evaluation, plus a rewards systems that encourage innovation. And the involvement of people from different backgrounds (rather than a closed shop of service professionals) will be essential. Last but not least, the provision of resources for innovation has to adequate.
How many public sector organisations can truly claim to have all of these features in place?