Month: July 2014

What Works Scotland, by Charlie Woods

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Collaboration was probably the word most used by those that spoke at the launch of What Works Scotland (WWS) WWS is an initiative led by the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow and funded by the Scottish Government and ESRC aimed at improving what has become known as the Scottish model of public service delivery. Cabinet Secretary John Swinney emphasised the key features of this model in his speech.

At the heart of the model is collaboration – collaboration between Government, local government, public agencies, third sector organisations and collaboration between those delivering public services and citizens to co-produce desired outcomes. These outcomes can be summarised as an improved quality of life in Scotland with services being delivered more efficiently, in a way which prevents problems from occurring and realises the potential of individuals and communities.

This whole approach was set out by the Christie Commission and is now widely accepted in concept as a way forward. The challenge is to put it into practice with the necessary speed, scale and intensity. WWS is one of the mechanisms to help achieve this.

The way we frame tasks shapes how we tackle them. This may be the case for providing public services in a collaborative, preventative, outcomes based way as well. Traditionally we have tended to frame issues in terms of what’s the problem and how can we provide a service to solve it. Perhaps a more innovative and productive approach would be to ask – what are the possibilities and how can we use the assets at our disposal to enable citizens to collaboratively realise them?

The really encouraging thing is that there appears to be a growing understanding of what needs to be done in theory and a real appetite to see how it can be made to work better in practice.

Something in the air? by Charlie Woods

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The recent EDAS (Economic Development Association Scotland) Conference took as it’s theme ‘Our economy – beyond the referendum: developing a route map for common ambition.” Amongst the speakers and the floor discussion there appeared to be a growing consensus that a fairer, more equal society (in terms of opportunity, ownership and outcome) is not only an indicator of a well functioning economy, but will also contribute to improved economic performance. Amongst other things, this would come about through realising wasted human potential, increasing demand for products and services and reducing demands on public expenditure to ameliorate problems associated with inequality. Interestingly the relationship between equality and growth has also received attention from the IMF this year.

In terms of how this ambition is to be achieved in Scotland there were a number of calls for a more collaborative approach in a variety of different contexts. These included:

  • between the private public and third sectors;
  • within public authorities and agencies trying to stimulate development to better join up policy and practice;
  • between communities and developers to jointly develop plans that can meet shared interests;
  • between employers and educationalists to shape curricula; and
  • within companies to give employees a greater stake in the business and the chance to bring their experience to bear, not least in developing productivity improving innovations.

Coincidently this identification of the need for greater collaboration to improve economic performance came a week after the launch of a new group called N56, with the strapline ‘Scotland means business’. This business led group (started by Dan Macdonald) has as part of its founding statement a desire “to facilitate a culture in which the private sector truly works alongside government, the public sector and communities, in the interests of establishing and implementing a strategy from which society as a whole can benefit and prosper. Indeed we believe this culture is more important than any individual policy.”

Maybe there’s something in the air that can be built on, regardless of the outcome of the referendum.