Should local public services introduce financial rewards for innovation, asks Socitm


Why should local public services not reward individuals or teams whose innovations may save millions of pounds for their organisation with say, 10% of the value from what they have created?

This ‘extremely challenging proposition’ is posed at the end of ‘The conditions for successful innovation’, a new report written by Socitm for CIOs and heads of ICTs.

The report, which is about creating environments within which innovation might flourish, points out that adopting private sector practice, in which successful innovation is rewarded by wealth accruing to its owners and stakeholders, would provide essential motivational carrots.

They would also overcome the obvious personal, organisational and public value self-limiting barrier that operates in public services of, ‘Why should I innovate myself and my team out of job to the benefit of the others who will remain?’

If a suitable rewards regime could be constructed, says the report, then the pace and depth of innovation would likely be far higher than at present; co-production in public service delivery would also grow rapidly; as would partnerships with highly motivated and engaged individual citizen entrepreneurs and other economic sectors.

The conditions for successful innovation begins by rehearsing the ‘perfect storm’ currently battering local public services: a combination of extreme cuts in funding and the impact of an ageing population, ageing infrastructure and an ageing workforce. On the upside, a digital technological revolution promises much scope for innovation.

The report illustrates what is possible with seven case studies of innovation, making the point that the innovation lies not just in the technology but also in leadership, management and culture. The case studies featured are:

  • Birmingham City Council’s recycling rewards scheme
  • Bolton MBC’s risk-based verification for housing benefit claims
  • London Borough of Enfield’s domestic violence support app
  • Essex CC’s social impact bond to reduce numbers children going into care
  • Leicestershire Constabulary’s geospatial mapping of crime and patrol cars
  • Sunderland City Council’s online funeral bookings
  • Wigan MBC’s customer services transformation

Results of a review of academic research is presented to identify:

  • a practical definition of innovation encompassing the end-to-end journey through to delivery, implementation and evidence of high-impact changes
  • the conditions for successful implementation of innovative solutions
  • four conditions for innovation (facilitating the process, understanding the need, making space in an organisation or team, giving permission) and what these mean in practice

The report provides a framework for ICT’s role in innovative delivery and argues that Socitm members need to be in the vanguard of innovation and learn how to manage the risks and uncertainties, while realising its potential. Advice and guidance is offered about creating an environment within which innovation may be more likely to happen and be successful.

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