Abstracts: April 7th, 2008

The Audit Commission and the IDeA have published case studies of the winners of a competition to find examples of innovation. The aim of the competition was to stimulate councils to innovate in the face of huge challenges such as coping with the implications of demographic change and migration; addressing sustainability and the challenge of climate change; and tackling systemic inequalities in health, worklessness and levels of cohesion, both between and within localities.

To address these challenges councils will both have to do new things and do some things in new ways. And that requires innovation. That does not mean ignoring the day job in favour of blue-sky thinking. Innovation needs to be closely linked to day-to-day service delivery, learning with and from communities, users and employees. And rather than neighbouring authorities re-inventing the wheel, what is needed is innovation in the local government sector as a whole, which means that sharing and learning from each other is crucial.

The Commission and the IDeA believe that there is now a need to look beyond making transactional changes – squeezing a little more improvement from council services year on year. The best authorities are pursuing a transformational agenda, making radical changes to established practice to achieve a leap in performance or release resources to the front line.

The case studies illustrate that the spark for an idea could come from many different sources, but it is important to think laterally and to look widely and be prepared to borrow from anywhere. Leadership and support from the top helps dramatically in ensuring that ideas come to fruition.

The case studies are available from the Commission. http://www.audit-commission.gov.uk/Products/NATIONAL-REPORT/F83A34F9-036A-4DA3-B4F8-6C7CA6E5B1CD/Innovation%202008.pdf