What Works Scotland’s key findings about public service reform in Scotland.
1. Public participation remains a focal point for action in public service reform. There has been considerable progress under the broad platform of the community empowerment agenda. However, there are clear areas for further development and support for authority-led community engagement as well as community-led action. A stronger community sector can be an effective part of a broad alliance that enables community empowerment by improving participation in politics, society and the economy.
2. There is a shared and widespread narrative in support of partnership and collaboration in Scotland, but its implementation in patchy both across and within organisations and sectors. There needs to be a stronger focus on improving the deliberative quality of formal partnerships, and a clearer move towards a culture of co-production in public services.
3. New modes of networked governance currently at play in Scotland are still in their early stages, and their progress depends on developing coherent systems that combine effectively both partnership and participation. Improving the governance of public services in Scotland requires further work that takes into account the power inequalities within and across the public, third and community sectors.
4. The public service workforce, across sectors, shows a remarkable level of resourcefulness and resilience in the face of considerable challenges. But more attention needs to be paid to the stability, training and support for workers at both the frontline and the strategic levels of public service reform. There is a need for action to develop and nurture well-supported communities of practice that can sustain learning and action based on partnership and participation.
5. To achieve reform, leaders have to be able to facilitate change across and between different organisations and sectors. To do this successfully, leadership must build, service and sustain networks with a shared vision which is strategic in orientation. Leaders need to develop skills in staff development, be reflexive and focus on outcomes.
6. Prevention is key to good reform and whilst the topic is high on the agenda across Scotland it is very much an area of evolving policy and practice. Savings from prevention programmes are often difficult to realise. Evaluation and the use of a logic model of anticipated expected outcomes are key, and costs, benefits and trade-offs of prevention have to be clearly understood in each instance, along with unintended consequences such as spillovers and displacement effects. Good prevention requires a long-term commitment, innovation, co-production and the provision of effective and attractive alternatives.
7. Place is now central to the reform process in Scotland. A place-based approach makes it easier for services to be controlled and owned by, and delivered through, the local community. Place-based approaches both rely on, and help to foster, participation and trust. They take time to develop, require long term funding and stability. Co-locating services and the use of a community anchor helps but national organisations have a key role to play.
8. Public services work best when they are a ‘learning organisation’. This requires a collaborative approach to both learning and research. Evaluation is most useful when it measures outcomes that are relevant to communities. There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to either generating or using evidence; it takes time and demands resource.
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