‘Our public services face an unprecedented set of challenges… Reform can’t confront these challenges effectively; radical innovation in public services now needs to move from the margins to the mainstream. The question is what analysis and principles should inform this radical innovation.’
The answer, argued in this discussion paper, is co-production. It defines co-production and sets out an emerging sector through case studies in order to build a better understanding and stronger evidence base for a method that asks both those delivering and using services to contribute in equal measure.
‘The quality of Departments’ work depends on their ‘human capital’, built up over a long period through appropriate recruitment, career management and training practices. The Centre has an important input to make in all of these areas.’
The Better Government Initiative aims to canvass the widest possible range of views, and to publish concrete recommendations which will be of practical interest not only to all three major parties, but also to the public more widely. The ‘Report on Departments‘ provides an interesting insight into the balance between the Centre and Departments, and makes a series of cross-cutting recommendations to optimise their relationship.
‘The seventh annual Audit of Political Engagement, is the most important since the series was launched in 2004. It is published after a horrendous year for Parliament and just ahead of a general election.’
The Audit of Political Engagement series is a longitudinal study, providing an annual benchmark to measure political engagement in the UK. Each Audit presents the findings from a public opinion poll survey, providing detailed commentary on a range of indicators that have been chosen as key measures. These indicators enable tracking year on year the direction and magnitude of change since the Audit was first published in 2004.
Governments can no longer rely on the traditional behaviour change tools of regulatory and economic instruments to shape civic actions. But should they turn to choice architecture or deliberative participation as an alternative? Both are very in vogue, but can real shifts be achieved by appealing to perceptions of cost-benefit or by changing values?
In their fantastic discussion paper Nudge nudge, think think, Peter John, Graham Smith and Gerry Stoker walk us through the emergence of ‘Nudging’ and of ‘Deliberation’ as competing strategies available to policy makers seeking to change the behaviour of citizens. The authors discuss the strengths and weaknesses of both strategies and provide a handy comparative analysis, which is neatly summarised in this table:
|View of preferences||Fixed||Malleable
|View of subjects||Cognitive misers, users of shortcuts, prone to flawed sometimes befuddled thinking||Reasonable, knowledge hungry and capable of collective reflection
|Costs to the individual||Low but repeated||High but only intermittently
|Unit of analysis||Individual-focussed||Group-focussed
|Change process||Cost-benefit led shift in choice environment||Value led outline of new shared policy platform
|Civic conception||Increasing the attractiveness of positive-sum action
|Addressing the general interest|
|Role of the state||Customise messages, expert and teacher||Create new institutional spaces to support citizen-led investigation, respond to citizens
In the coda, the authors explore how the two strategies can learn from each other and be brought together in a coherent manner. Although they accept that coherence is very difficult in practice because both strategies hold different understandings of human behaviour and theories of change, they both share a fundamental driving principle:
Governments accept they cannot rely on issuing commands or creating incentives: they must deal directly and engage with the citizen, whose participation helps to co-produce public outcomes.
Ultimately, as the authors conclude, to be a successful practitioner of nudge it you need to understand what makes deliberation work and to be an effective practitioner of think you need to understand the dynamics of nudge.
The paper discusses at length the design of Nudging and Deliberative processes, but does not spend enough time – to my mind – considering how they are communicated to the public, even though both strategies are highly reliant on effective marketing of intriguingly differing styles.
Room for improvement aside, this is a very accessible article containing learning and challenges for functions across government.
Another paper from the same ESRC-funded research programme that is also worth a read is Can the internet overcome the logic of collective action? which takes an experimental approach to investigating the impact of social pressure on political participation. This paper tests the hypothesis that social information provided by the internet makes it possible in large groups to exert social pressure that was previously only considered viable for smaller groups.
We are all localists now.
So starts a new research report by IPPR exploring the political consensus around decentralisation and the barriers to achieving it in practice – Who’s accountable? The challenge of giving power away in a centralised political culture.
The researchers asked a representative sample who they regarded as accountable for the performance of public services. Across a range of services – health and policing, for example – no matter who is charge, the public placed responsibility firmly at the feet of government. However, in other cases – such as education and transport – accountability is more diffuse. Why?
The report considers a number of factors, but of particular importance seems to be good communication. When power is devolved, the lines of accountability must be made clear. The examples of devolution in Scotland and public transport make for interesting case studies in this respect.
However, in the report the authors write:
… ministers may be more inclined to give up powers where lines of accountability are clear and when they can be reassured that once they’ve let go, the public, the media and the oppoistion will accedpt that responsibility rests at the local level.
I do think the authors should have spent longer considering the important influence of party politics and media representation, alongside that of public attitudes and perceptions, in order to get the full picture.
Otherwise, it is an interesting and well set out piece of original research.
In 2004 – in Lithuania, of all places – Professor Stephen Coleman introduced me to a four-phase model for understanding how new technologies are adopted and influenced by organisations.
Don’t know if he came up with it directly but finding it beautifully simple and functional, I’ve used it countless times since to make sense of how technology use is developing in organisations I have worked for or with.
I was discussing it with Neil Williams over a cerveza recently, and decided to add a fifth phase that I’d like to share here.
Coleman’s four phases (note – I’ve tweaked the names, but not their essence) ran as follows:
hyperbole > resistance > institutionalisation > transformation
If we’re talking general stats about who’s online and why, I tend to use the following sites, not just for the readily available free data but also for the crucial analysis:
- CIA World Factbook
- The Economist
- Ipsos MORI
- Neilsen Online
- Pew Internet
- World Internet Project
What about you?
- Are you an average web user?
- What makes some people upgrade their connection, while others don’t even have dial up?
- Why do some people think they spend too much time online?
- Why do so many of us trust what we read on the web?