We know the cuts to the public sector are coming, we know where some of them have already fallen, and we know there will be more. What we don’t know yet, is how they will affect us all as individuals and families. The public sector are girding their loins for union action against the proposed wage freezes and job cuts, the private sector know that both danger and opportunity lie ahead.

Is there a way that we can reframe our perception of these cuts, this belief that there is an ‘us’ and ‘them’. Who exactly are they? We are all facing the same problem, are we not? Now, I am not a religious person but one of the most useful books about life, the universe and everything I have found is Fuck it by John C Parkin, who expounds the Fuck it Way (go on give it a go). One of the clearest tools in the book was his perspective pack, a handy, invisible rocket-powered backpack (with zero-emissions) that you can put on whenever you are facing a thorny issue or stressful situation. Pop it on and zoom up to get some perspective. Now, John C Parkin would have you floating out in deep space looking at a marble-sized earth trying to remember what all the fuss was about, but I prefer to stay within the stratosphere, in order to get the perspective, but remember the important stuff.

So we are facing cut backs in the public sector in order to tackle huge national debt. What is the issue here? Is it job cuts and pay freezes, fat cats v the ordinary worker? Zoom out. What is it now? A belief system that talks about entitlements and benefits that has forgotten that it it pays into the pot to offer free health care, policing and education to all? Zoom out. Is it a society that has lost sight of it’s own power and responsibility to itself? We have come through worse. And if we were to take a quiet and measured look at ourselves we may find that the system that we live within is essentially good but could do with losing a little flab. Waste is ubiquitous. We could do much, much more, with less. The important word here is we.

Last month NESTA published a paper called Radical Efficiency. It takes examples from Chicago, Australia, Rio de Janeiro and Sunderland to provide examples of what it’s authors call Radical Efficiency. Radical Efficiency, they explain is ” about different, better, and lower cost public services. It is about innovation that delivers much better public outcomes for much lower cost.” And this comes about, not through incremental tweaking, but rather from approaching the problem from a different angle completely. In some cases it may redefine the problem itself.

Do you want to transform the sector, organisation, county, country that you work in? Put your perspective pack on and take a fresh look at where your ideas are coming from, could new insights from other sectors or experts shine new light on your problem, could finding new customers transform your service, do you serve the individual or the family, or even the community as a whole, could you find new suppliers, and new resources and are those suppliers and resources lurking in your client base? How much control do your customers have over the services and products you provide. If you are providing something for them, perhaps you should work with them?

Radical efficiency requires a democratization of ideas, and responsibility. Involve the people you serve. Solve the problem together. Shared responsibility means shared ownership. Sounds like community to me.

NESTA suggest 5 conditions are needed to develop radically efficient public services

1. Make true partnership with users the best choice for everyone
2. Enable committed, passionate and open-minded leaders to emerge from anywhere
3.Start with peoples quality of life, not the quality of your service
4. Work with the grain and in the spirit of families, friends and neighbours
5 Manage risks, don’t just avoid them.

Why not read the document for yourself? You can access it here and they’ll even send you a hard copy if you ask nicely.

It is all too easy to get caught up in the day to day scrapping down here on earth. With a little perspective we can return to the point: what is our problem, what do we need to achieve, how can we figure this out together? Radical Efficiency allows for users to become creators, for leaders to emerge from anywhere, for solutions to be shared.

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