The Covid-19 pandemic has made the immediate need for public services and policy more visible and urgent. It has been a universal experience, shared by our friends, families and colleagues, leading to new types of services and support, and collective responsibilities between national and local government, health services, and the voluntary and community sectors.
When faced with significant change, and when responding to that change, we have seen the public sector respond successfully time and again. Digital transformation has played a key role in this response, giving us the potential to make services reach further, and enabling the sector to continue to work more effectively – despite lockdown restrictions and the need to move to new delivery models overnight.
The past two years have seen the pace of change in government accelerate. Digital transformation has increased the flexibility and ability of both policy makers and the teams delivering public services to quickly respond to the highest priority problems. This, along with investment in new ways of working like service design, user research and data science, are now essential to responding more rapidly to other pressing challenges such as the climate emergency.
However, in reality, much of the government’s investment in technology and change over the past decade simply hasn’t gone far enough in transforming how our organisations and systems work.
As Neal Gandhi, CEO of TPXimpact explains: “Many of our ways of working were conceived in a different era; at a time before the mass acceptance of cloud computing, open source, APIs and agile approaches. The pandemic has shown us that not only were many historic approaches no longer fit for purpose, they were actually damaging, resulting in poor outcomes, slower time to launch and substantially more expensive compared to more progressive and modern approaches to designing and delivering public services.”
Looking to the future, we believe that far more is possible. With new thinking and approaches, it is possible to multiply the impact of public services and policy through digital transformation, creating greater benefits for people and their communities.
When two plus two can equal five
The late Norwegian philosopher and environmentalist Arne Naess is quoted as saying the following: “Claiming that something is impossible is nothing more than a temporary working hypothesis. Two plus two can equal five if something changes”.
This is a powerful quote, and represents what we call Multiplied Thinking at TPXimpact. It’s simply the belief that more is possible, and that change is always possible. The question is what can change?
Global events happening around us, such as the Covid-19 pandemic, lead us to respond in new and different ways. There is also our ability to make new things happen within existing systems and situations. This is our willingness to reset the rules, challenge constraints, and reframe problems.
What’s important here is understanding what has the potential to increase the reach and impact of the public sector’s work. We call these multipliers – the things that make us more than the sum of our individual and collective parts. Some example multipliers include:
1) People – The importance of centring work and everything around people, their needs, and the outcomes services create, along with the impact the public sector has in all of our lives.
2) Participation – putting citizens’ lived experience and voices at the heart of change to deliver far greater impact for people and the places they live. With the potential for more solutions, supported by technology, to be flexible and tailored around individual circumstances.
3) Inclusion – Creating solutions that reach further, and that are more adaptable to everyone, making them accessible in the largest possible range of situations.
Other multipliers can be found in how we work – using research, design, technology and data to create increasingly personalised, targeted services and support. We’ve seen through the speed of response during the pandemic that new approaches to delivery make more possible and faster. They allow greater collaboration and the ability to build on the knowledge and work of others, as whole systems work together more effectively.
As we now move into a new era of digital transformation, understanding what can multiply is vitally important. This will determine the impact of the public sector’s work, the effectiveness of public policy, and how responsive we can be to change in society.
With this in mind, it’s now time to be bold and to reset our expectations for what is possible. Everything can change if we’re willing to work creatively, with the vision, ambition and tools to make it happen.
Read the book
In early 2022, TPXimpact will be launching a new book Multiplied: How digital transformation can deliver more impact for the public sector.
This is a book for anyone that creates, delivers or supports public policy and services. It’s about what the public sector, and everyone working with the public sector, does next, the future of digital transformation and what we can learn from the biggest crisis in our lifetimes to date – Covid-19.
We’ve worked with contributors from across TPXimpact, all of whom have worked in the civil service, or have led teams in government and across the UK health service. In writing this book our intention is to start new conversations, sharing ideas and insights from the work we’ve been part of, both before, and during the pandemic. As we’ve seen more clearly than ever, we all have a role to play in shaping how things change.
To learn more about the book and for your opportunity to get early release details please visit Multiplied the book