SOCIAL PRODUCTIVITY - WHAT IT MEANS FOR SCOTLAND'S ENVIRONMENT
By Paul Buddery and Jamie Cooke
In a time of austerity and weak economic growth, publicly funded organisations are all told they have to do ‘...more with less…’. But for many public services, the challenges they have to meet are becoming bigger and more complicated and nowhere more so than in environmental protection and management.
Many of the threats to the natural environment are inherently ‘wicked’ in nature – that is, they’re complex, dynamic, cross-cutting, long-term, and sometimes bring together conflicting value or interest claims.
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) are the public bodies responsible for environmental regulation, conservation and improvement. Over the last few years they have been making major changes to the way they approach their roles, not only to keep within tightening budgets, but to create ever more outward facing organisations that achieve their ends through broad collaborations and forward looking partnerships. In fact, both organisations can fairly claim to have been on the front-foot, and leading public service reform even before the Christie Commission delivered its wake up call to public services in Scotland. Christie called for greater collaboration between different services and between services and local communities. Christie focused on the ‘big spending’ transactional services especially in health, social care and education. But the report was quiet on what its vision might look like for the environment or for specific agencies such as SEPA and SNH – leaving the risk that the costs and value of the natural environment would remain marginal to public service decision making. SEPA and SNH therefore asked RSA 2020 Public Services to take a look at how to move forward.
The report, Environmental Protection and Management, written by Paul Buddery (left) and Atif Shafique draws on the views of a wide variety of stakeholders, including RSA Scotland Fellows, many of whom are passionate and experienced in this area. It uses an approach to public service reform that the team has developed, building on the work of the cross-party Commission on 2020 Public Services. Termed ‘social productivity’, it rejects the notion that public services are simply goods to be bought and consumed. They are social relationships, so they need to be understood and constructed from the citizen-up, rather than from the service down. Good public services understand and work with the grain of relationships within places, appreciate the diversity of assets – social, economic, and natural – within those places, and seek to align those relationships in order to deliver valued outcomes. Within this dynamic view of value creation, citizens, businesses and voluntary organisations all have a role in co-producing better outcomes. Social productivity approach is generally agnostic about how public services should be delivered or by whom, so has little time for public-private contests that have often become bogged down in questions of ‘deliver-ology’ or narrow value for money calculations. Social productivity looks at the extent to which services ‘help citizens, families and communities to achieve the social outcomes they desire’.
This focus on outcome, behaviour and empowerment rather than simple transaction brings a sharper focus on longer term change. This commitment to long term impact rejects both blanket cuts to services which undermine sustainable change and the unresponsive and undemanding universalism that can go hand in hand with top-down, centralised services.
For SEPA and SNH, social productivity offers a way to deepen and extend its relationships with other public services, with business, and – critically – with citizens, whose willingness to change, and whose ability to drive change must be recognised and nurtured. Whilst there will always be elements of the statutory work of both SEPA and SNH that require a centralised, prescriptive and traditionally regulatory approach, much of their work can be best delivered in partnership with the public. Building out of the RSA’s previous work on ChangeMakers, (local civic activists who can act as fulcrums of action), we believe there is a clear opportunity for the two agencies to develop a cadre of Environmental ChangeMakers across Scotland, who can drive forward activity on a local level. Rooted in examination of current environmental activism, and underpinned by network analysis, this approach will enable, over time, an interlinked web of citizen scientists helping to shape behaviour and activity across Scotland.
One outcome of the creation of this network would be a shift in focus towards prevention and away from reaction. The analogy of tackling problems upstream, rather than downstream, is entirely appropriate. Given the financial constraints that public bodies will be operating within for the foreseeable future, collaboration will be the logical response to achieving maximum impact from reduced resources. These collaborations should encompass other public bodies, the citizen scientists of the ChangeMakers and also the business community of Scotland, in order to best implement behavioural changes across the widest segment of Scottish society.
For SEPA and SNH, social productivity offers a way to deepen and extend its relationships with other public services, with business, and – critically – with citizens,
The report is a vital outlining of the considerable work which SEPA and SNH have already undertaken in terms of evolving their approaches to community engagement, and sets out a vision for how social productivity could allow for sustainable solutions to the wicked problems which we face. In Scotland we are incredibly lucky with the environmental resources we possess and the potential benefits which they offer to our country – by harnessing the skills and experiences of our fellow citizens in order to protect and utilise these resources we will be creating the best foundation for future progress as a nation in tune with its environment.
By Paul Buddery, Partner, RSA 2020 Public Services @firstname.lastname@example.org)
and Jamie Cooke, Deputy Head of Fellowship, the RSA (@JamieACookeemail@example.com)
Further reading: Commission on 2020 Public Services (2010), From Social Security to Social Productivity: A Vision for 2020 Public Services. London: 2020 Public Services Trust at the RSA, p.9; available at www.clients.squareeye.net/uploads/2020/documents/PST_final_rep.pdf.
By Paul Buddery and Jamie Cooke
OTHER ARTICLES IN THIS ISSUE
- Editorial: Policy Making and Data. Count me in! ..But can you really count?
- We have a right to know
- Interview: Danny Alexander MP, Chief Secretary to the Treasury
- Transport investment: a key part of economic recovery
- Planning for your/our pension futures?
- Launch of Commission for Strengthening Local Democracy
- People Power: Why Employers Should Invest for Success
- Are we really crossing the digital divide?
- Making it local and integrated in Argyll & Bute
- Social Productivity - what it means for Scotland's environment
- Supporting Independent Renewable Energy
Issue 7: Nov 2013
HEALTH, WELL BEING AND AGEING: SCOTLAND 2020
Scotland's move to integrated care can learn from elsewhere by focussing on two key differentiators between successful partnerships and those paying lip service to integrated working: Shared outcomes and common language is one, the other is demonstrating mutual investments and mutual benefits.
- Scotland: Caring for the carers
- We should have fewer Councils - but they should run health
- Sustainable Communities - a Long Term view of Health and Social Care
- Can green space beat anxiety in urban Scotland?
- Stubbing it out: how can this be measured?
- A big Scottish question - "how do we become a healthier people?"
- Who's caring for ...our grandparents ...children ...us?
- Growing Old and Falling Apart - It doesn't have to be that way....
- NHS Scotland: the public and the patients
- A postcard from Older Scotland in 2020
- Equality: the last hurdle. Or is it ?
- Redressing Health Delivery in Scotland
Looking for a previous issue? Use the menu below to select an issue.
MOST READ ARTICLES
- Bringing alive the Digital Participation Charter for Scotland's citizens, communities and businesses
- Transport for Edinburgh - Integrated Transport for a Smart City
- Worth more than the First Minister? Senior Salaries in Scottish Quangos
- A Planet of Smart Cities: Scotland's digital challenge
- Dundee: From Waterfront redevelopment to city economy regeneration
- Social Business Can Transform Public Services
- Success secrets shared: Learning from the best Mittelstand and British global niche champions
- Public Services Reform and Public Opinion
- Increasing digital participation levels in Scotland - what needs to happen next?
- The Evolving Public Sector Response to Budget Challenges