A rough guide to being a public entrepreneur in practice - RSA

A rough guide to being a public entrepreneur in practice


  • Health and wellbeing
  • Public services

Our health and social care systems have been working to meet people’s needs for over 70 years. Yet the approach to change is often incremental rather than radical or transformational. This means we sometimes ‘muddle through’ with the resources we have. Given the pace of change and long-term trends and challenges on the horizon this approach is no longer sufficient.

There are, however, people, processes and practices that are demonstrating a new kind of public entrepreneurship - responding fast, taking risks and experimenting to meet challenges head on. We’ve seen incredible responses to the pandemic and whilst it’s hit society hard, it’s also accelerated changes that might have otherwise taken decades to implement.

We need to harness the collective potential of creative people more systematically, working across the system to build resilience and support transformational change efforts. Staff commitment and energy is fundamental to spotting the challenges and the opportunities for change, taking action to not only meet the needs of today, but those of tomorrow. Together NHS Lothian and the RSA designed and ran a programme in an attempt to do just that.

This rough guide presents a summary of the insights gained by 12 members of NHS Lothian’s staff who came together to explore how they can support each other to challenge the status quo and find new ways of addressing challenges they face in their work.

The programme was designed and delivered by the RSA, drawing on our collective experience and the our work on public service reform and innovation over the last decade.

pdf 6.6 MB

By exploring the ideas for change of a number of our staff, supported through the RSA’s public entrepreneur programme, we hope to build our capacity to creatively resolve the problems that we face, and to understand more about how we might work in future. This is a critical step on our journey towards a future that remains uncertain and ambiguous.

Colin Briggs, director of strategic planning and Rebecca Miller, head of strategy development

Read our rough guide below.

Download the rough guide (PDF, 6.6 MB)

Tools and methods

This accompanying deck was used by the inaugural cohort in a six-month NHS Lothian public entrepreneur programme.

Related project outputs