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Councils urged to appoint ‘public entrepreneurs’

All councils and other public sector bodies should appoint a ‘public entrepreneur’ to encourage more innovation, according to a new report.

The Move Fast and Fix Things report by the think-tank Royal Society of Arts warns too many public authorities are wasting money and missing out on creative solutions to social problems through poor procurement.

In order to rectify this, the report recommends each authority appoint a ‘public entrepreneur’ who ‘knows how to hustle, fail fast and win over audiences’ to drive innovation.

These public entrepreneurs would take ownership of procuring innovative solutions to social ‘missions’, such as particular challenging facing specific local areas, and take responsibility for their success or failure.

It argues this would enable government to experiment with different types of intervention: as well as familiar policy levers like regulation, innovative commissioning and procurement can be more effective though under-utilised tools.

In particular, the report highlights the example of Sutton Council, where the head of strategic business is driving moves to be a more outcomes-focussed commissioning local authority.

And it also cites the example of the Northern Ireland Adult Safeguarding Partnership, which is taking the lead on reforming the area’s social care and modernising the service for the needs of an ageing society.

The report also recommends the Government create a skills passport so public entrepreneurs can move easily between jobs, bringing public sector experience to different roles

‘There are pockets of innovation throughout the public sector and of course thousands of individuals who are keen to make a real difference, but the issue is how to spread this experimental approach throughout government in order to tackle big social issues – whether that’s obesity, government support for business development, or caring for an ageing population, said the Royal Society of Arts’ director of innovation, Rowan Conway.

‘By appointing a public entrepreneur, councils and devolved government can start to experiment more with policy innovations with the potential to make a real, substantial and noticeable difference to the public: whether that’s helping people lead healthier lifestyles, or supporting local business start-ups.

‘Likewise, we need to see this idea scaled across in central government too with the creation of thousands of public entrepreneurs throughout government, with an ‘invest to solve’ mindset,’ added Conway.

To read the full Move Fast and Fix Things report, click here.

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