A very important question


Neal Lawson of Compass tells us that:

The state and public services do need to be reformed and yes modernised. But not through the market.

So how are we to reform and modernise public services if not by using market mechanisms? By more target setting? By calling for Stakhanovite efforts in tractor production?

Instead we should be looking at ideas such as co-production, whereby users and staff work together to redesign services and therefore obtaining levels of productivity and efficiency that no cost cutting private consultant could ever achieve. There is huge latent potential in workers and citizens that could be unleashed if we build them into the reform process.

Sounds fun.

And the crisis does give us a chance to rethink state structures and strike a new deal between a centre that should focus on equality and a periphery of local delivery that can innovate and encourage participation.

Innovation, eh? My word, he makes it all sound so simple. Which is because, in very large part, it is indeed simple. Users and staff work together to redesign: that is the interaction of the producer and the consumer, the demand of the one and the desire to supply of the other. Leading, as noted, through a series of iterations, to greater productivity and efficiency. The innovation that results from such participation then gets sorted by our looking at which innovations work and which don't. Those that do we copy and roll out in other areas. Now we have a name for these sorts of things: market processes. Here, specifically, a market in methods of organisation.

So Lawson's idea is that in order to reform our public services without using the market we must use the market.

Which leads us to our very important question: how do people so confused end up having influence over public policy?