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Making the Most of Public Services: A Systems Approach to Public Innovation

Levy, C. Making the most of public services: A systems approach to public innovation. The Work Foundation, London, 2011. Pages: 51.

In the face of increased demand on public services due to myriad factors, a report from the Work Foundation (a London-based think thank) offers two case studies from the public sector – international higher education and the National Health Service (NHS) – to assert that the difficulty of the UK government to effectively support innovation of public services has a far-reaching impact. These effects extend into both the public and private sector. In particular, the report examines how public expenditures in innovation have an effect on quasi-governmental innovation.
In regards to the report’s first case study – international higher education in the form of transnational education (e.g. branch campuses and distance learning) – the author asserts that export activities generate significant innovation for and within the public sector. Nevertheless, such activities are not being properly and fully harnessed to support further innovation and, thus, further revenue.

The report stresses that the public sector – and the innovation it funds and produces – is an intangible element of the UK’s knowledge economy. The three main recommendations to increase its role and significance in driving innovation are: 

  • public services must understand how they influence innovation and how to invest in further innovation;
  • public services must learn the best practices related to innovation from the private sector and
  • partnerships between the public and private sector should increase, which would  further improve the public sector’s adoption of the private sector’s best practices.
The Work Foundation