Public Services Lab: the journey so far | Big Society Capital

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Public Services Lab: the journey so far

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After 3,000 hours of face-to-face engagement, 250 organisations met, four member organisations confirmed, three Chris’s recruited and two awards won, the Public Services Lab, winner of the Business Impact Challenge, is starting to emerge.

Since mid-November I’ve flung myself around Liverpool City Region meeting Chief Executives, community members, service users and hundreds of frontline staff. I’ve even met a few babies and dogs!

I’ve found what I have always known; that there is so much talent in the City Region.  There is such a strong desire to create more early intervention, user-led services. There is a distinct need for enterprises that are built on strong, meaningful relationships with service users and communities.  Yet despite this desire and need, we struggle to do this.

Undoubtedly there are national pressures and funding constraints. But surely we have enough talent and drive locally to co-ordinate ourselves in a different way?

I am beginning to understand how the Public Service Lab can help. Initially, it will be to provide the space (and time) for commissioners, providers, services users, community members and investors to come together and think about how outcomes can be delivered differently.

This space and time is crucial – but more important is the ordering. I’m not talking about a space after somebody in ‘control’ has decided what the service or specification is going to be and needs to do tick-box consultation.  Instead, to genuinely model and yes, dare I say it, ‘co-design’ systems and outcomes. From this design contracts for services can be issued which capture the skills and experience of the whole system.

It is clear to see how much pressure the public sector is under, with difficult decisions to make. Doing and being different isn’t easy when you’ve got budgets to balance. To provide some additional capacity, I am recruiting for the Director of Service and System Design to take forward this area of work.

If you’ve got proven experience of designing new and better services and systems with users, communities, frontline staff and systems and have excellent people skills then this role could be perfect for you.  You must be good at analysing and spotting what the cause of the problem is rather than focussing on the symptoms - and then be able to support the design of solutions!

VCSE organisations are also facing ongoing financial pressure. I know this feeling well!  To give local organisations the financial space to think differently this we need to provide them with more tailored business support to help them grow and develop. Many of the organisations I’ve been spending time with have brilliant aspirations and ambitions, but are finding it challenging to secure the contract or investment to unlock the potential of their organisation.

While many VCSE organisations have most of the right ingredients, they’re telling me they need tailored business planning and business development to make that next step.  Not transactional, rigid business support, but support that involves first listening carefully and then developing a tailored solution.  I am looking for a Director of Enterprise Support to lead this area of work – you might have developed a social/commercial enterprise (£2-3m+), secured public sector contracts and have the ambition to see VCSE organisations grow and develop.

You can find out more about both of the roles, here.

I don’t have all the answers, but I do want to create the capacity to find better solutions. I hope you might be interested in joining us on the journey, and if not, we will share our thoughts and progress as we go.

Do keep in touch with ideas and connections.

Last updated | 
23 February 2017


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