What Works Scotland, by Charlie Woods

Collaboration was probably the word most used by those that spoke at the launch of What Works Scotland (WWS) http://whatworksscotland.ac.uk/. 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.

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