Business, society and public services: a social productivity framework

Public services need to be reformed to meet the demands of the longterm, under the fiscal constraints of today. Economic growth needs to be re-kindled – but in a more sustainable form that carries public confidence and delivers fairer returns. These are the two big policy challenges of our time. Yet they are not being considered together, and risk pulling in conflicting directions.

Arguments about ‘responsible capitalism’ and public service reform are live, ongoing debates – but they have been made in different places, addressing different audiences and needs. These agendas could diverge unless they are brought together as part of a coherent narrative. In this report we argue that the concept of social productivity should frame the process.

Our research shows that Britain will struggle to promote sustainable growth and maintain vital public services unless old barriers between business, public services and citizens are pulled down. The report calls for leadership and policy making that will bring together the state, business and citizens as collaborative partners through the establishment of new shared spaces, shared values and the unlocking of shared resources.

Some cross-party consensus is already emerging on what a new role for the state in the market, and the market in delivering public services might mean in practice. This new shared agenda includes a focus on creating new forms of growth that are sustainable and rebalance the economy; delivering public services through a mixed economy; fostering behaviour change; and less command and control in public policy and services.

This report builds on this nascent agenda, offering an analytical and practical framework for rebalancing business, public service and society relationships. It does this by firstly exploring key ‘touchpoints’ of new thinking and practice – including concepts such as creating shared value, philanthrocapitalism, enlightened enterprise, public entrepreneurship and the circular economy. The report then provides specific case studies which demonstrate new, socially productive relationships in practice: including B&Q and RSA’s Community Footprint approach; smart city policymaking, new public service delivery models (such spin-outs) and a new form of value-generating regulation (regulation ‘plus’), seen in the Zero Carbon Hub approach to green new homes.

The report provides a social productivity framework and toolkit that will help practitioners, policymakers and other relevant stakeholders apply this new thinking in practice, in a coherent way. This requires:

  • The establishment of new shared spaces: The report looks at the Zero Carbon Hub, set up by the National House-Building Council with seed corn funding from DCLG, which has successfully taken responsibility for implementing the Government’s commitment to make new homes carbon neutral by 2016.
  • The forging of new shared values: Public Managers and businesses need to think beyond service delivery and profit, and consider their contribution to social and economic growth. The report considers the role of FE colleges in drawing together SMEs, entrepreneurs, public service leaders, local political leaders and major businesses to catalyse local growth.
  • Unlocking of new shared resources: Resource challenges present potential risks and opportunities for public, private and civil society sectors. The report looks at Sunderland City Council’s ‘virtual’ back office for local entrepreneurs, and the Open Data Institute.  When resources are scarce across the board, new types of financing or IT solutions are crucial.

Download the Business, society and public services: a social productivity framework (PDF, 1.4MB)

An  earlier report from 2020 Public Servises Hub by Henry Kippin and Ben Lucas explored the Big Society to Social Productivity. Download From Big Society to Social Productivity (PDF, 285KB)