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RSA 2020 Public Services grew out of the 2020 Public Services Trust, which ran a Commission on public services between 2008 and 2010. The independent, cross-party Commission aimed to broaden the debate on the future of public services through an intensive period of engagement, a broad research programme and several publications. In its final report in 2010, it concluded that the UK needs to move from the Beveridge model of universal top down services to a framework based on social productivity. The Trust transferred to the RSA in March 2011.

What is social productivity?

It’s an approach which recognises the importance of the relationship between citizens and services. We believe that public services are not things delivered to people, but are the product of a relationship between citizen, service and society. Public services should be judged by the extent to which they enable citizens to play a full part, create sustainable systems, and foster community resilience. We argue that we need to build economically and socially productive places where businesses, public services and civil society work together through shared spaces, resources and values. 

We’ve had a busy few months. This year we’ve published work on, among other topics:

  • Managing demand for public services: Beyond Nudge to Managing Demand, a report published in partnership with the Local Government Association, the Economic and Social Research Council and iMPOWER, argues that we urgently need to consider how approaches such as early intervention and behaviour change can avoid a situation of managed decline in services. The paper looks at the scale of the challenge that public service agencies currently face; explores what is already being done in demand management and why it has not spread further; and asks how new relationships between the state, citizens and communities can overcome these barriers. An in-depth report on how we adopt demand management approaches in practice will be published in the autumn. 


  • The urgent need for a new fiscal arrangement in the UKFiscal Fallout – The Challenge Ahead for Public Spending and Public Services, was published to coincide with the Autumn 2012 spending review. It set out the case for a social productivity spending review based on principles such as rebalancing revenue raising and expenditure away from Whitehall, and placing a much greater focus on managing demand, building capacity and giving citizens the tools to generate their own social and economic value.


  • Spinning out and mutualising public services: Enterprise Solutions: Public Service Mutuals consists of a set of reports and other resources on public sector spin outs, supported by London Councils’ Capital Ambition and in partnership with four leading London councils. The work explores the advantages and disadvantages of making services independent of government, seeking to explore whether this can create better services that are more agile and accountable to their communities, or risks creating a prohibitively complex and fragmented public sector. 


This animation was based on the real experiences of projects within the Enterprise Solutions project to give a fictionalised account of what local authority teams can expect if they decide to form an employee led mutual. 


We’ve also done extensive work on the future of social carethe equality agenda, and community leadership in local government. You can see a full list of our recent publications on the 2020 website.

How you can get involved

At the moment, we’re working with Asda to look at the future of retail, and how it relates to community and civic life. Find out more by reading a blog by Jonathan Schifferes about the effect technological changes have had on the high street. Jonathan is interested to hear examples of retailers who are working particularly effectively with their local community – if you are aware of any interesting or innovative approaches, send him an email at with details (and a photo, if possible).

Finally, if you’d like to know more about our current work – from community hubs in Wiltshire to an innovation network for co-operative councils – find out on our website


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