So annoying I had to blog about it

I came across this thing: http://www.localinnovation.idea.gov.uk/idk/core/page.do?pageId=22580780 (nice URL, huh?) via @CovalentCPM which is about how councils can start to section off services into social enterprises.  I think I’ve posted about this before but suffice to say I’m broadly in favour of This Sort of Thing, just with a few reservations.

What makes me want to gouge out my eyes when I saw this smug piece of work from the LGiD* is the complete lack of any discernible mention of people.  You know, those pesky individuals sometimes called ‘service users’, ‘customers’, ‘citizens’ or (whisper it) ‘individuals’.

I mean, why actually involve people in designing and running the services they might use?  what would be the point?  how would we be paternalistic and maintain the status quo if we started listening to what people need?  That way madness lies.  Madness, I tell you.

Look at this hideous slide – the ‘Social Enterprise Milestones Map‘ by Dan Gregory of Local Partnerships.  At no point does it mention actual people, or redesigning the service.  There is ‘Products and services (inc. development)’ which if we are being generous we might take to encompass the process of understanding people’s needs, forming relationships with them, working with them to determine the shape of the required service and setting up practical working arrangements that allow them to make it happen in partnership with (former) local authority staff.

There is also not a peep about creativity or innovation or risk-taking or the skills that are needed to foster those attributes in a competitive market.  There is nothing about thinking or acting like a start-up, nothing about creating new markets and disrupting old ways of doing things, and nothing about resource sharing, time banking, and in-kind trading.  Unless of course all this is included in the bullet point ‘Don’t forget the importance of a sound financial model’.

All this dry and slightly patronising report tells me is that if LGiD and CLG have their way the future of public services is no different to what we’ve got today – poorly designed, wasteful and inflexible.

Chalk Farm Library

*The organisation formerly known as the IDeA

4 Responses to “So annoying I had to blog about it”

  1. Adil Says:

    Go, girl!

  2. Sean Powley Says:

    A very considered and insightful rant, totally agree that without the people its just mechanistic.

  3. dan Says:

    oops! sorry this was so annoying carrie and the slide was flawed enough that your comments are somewhat justified…

    in its defence, this was originally a slide about the journey to social enterprise in a wider context of a presentation to a small group of people who impressed me (for what that’s worth) as very passionate budding social entrepreneurs who were only there in the first place for that reason. that passion and people-centred motivation was why they were there, why i was there, and what drove them.

    it certainly isn’t my job to be patronising and pretend i can impart knowledge about how to understand people’s needs, how to listen to them and form relationships with them. but for budding social entrepreneurs who are driven by these issues, sometimes it has been helpful for us to talk through the rather dry and passionless steps and process to developing a business around that approach.

    in fact, in the slightly blurry and muffled video on the same LGID page i am actually discussing this very point – that the focus on people and social mission is what drives people to consider social enterprise in the first place and its also what will preoccupy them when are up and running. but in between – in the transition phase – there’s lots of boring stuff about VAT, TUPE, pensions, company registration, etc which needs to be thought through.

    would be happy to talk this through and i must remember not to assume that everyone else will always pick up on those things that are sometimes left unsaid…

    d.

    • carriebish Says:

      Hi Dan

      Wow, really impressed at your grown-up response, and looking back at my tone I probably could have been a little kinder :)

      I’m really pleased that this was part of a wider session and that the slide was out-of-context, and really reassured that the LGiD is spending time with social innovators who are focused on putting people first. I completely agree that the boring organisational stuff can come as a bit of a shock to some social entrepreneurs and it’s good that they’re prepared for that. If only local government could understand that its processes actually preclude innovation and put off those people with the creativity and drive to get something done.

      I’d love to see the LGiD (or whoever) host a discussion on these issues and play a part in trying out new ways of working with innovators that minimise the bureaucracy.

      Thanks again for commenting and setting the record straight, and I promise to be less hasty in future :)

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