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The landscape of public services is in flux. The Coalition has attempted to hit the ground running, pushing for radical reform across a range of areas including healthcare, education, welfare and the relation-ship between local and central government. 

There is uncertainty about the potential impact of much of this reform at the local level. Several mandated measures of performance and benchmarking have been removed, and councils are feeling both the opportunity for change and pressure of greater autonomy through measures set out in the Localism Act and the Open Public Services White Paper.

Yet as we reach for solutions at a time of constrained public budgets, might it be helpful to look beyond the UK and the developed world, to see what can be learned from reform in the developing world over the last twenty years? Much of that reform was driven by fiscal tightening, and governments and local voluntary agencies and community groups tried to implement reforms that went with the grain of local civic capacity. In this report, we argue that there are lessons to learn – positive and cautionary – from the approaches adopted these very different circumstances.

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