Opening up innovation in public services to a wider set of actors – opportunities for Creative Scotland 2009

 A report published by NESTA yesterday,  Why radical  innovation is needed to reinvent public services for the recession and beyond  throws down the gauntlet to the public sector to innovate and take radical action in the context of the recession.  


This is a timely report for Creative Scotland 2009.

The world has changed since the original planning for the new organisation was considered through the Transition Project.Faced with the stark realities of increased social and economic challenges and the forecast reductions in public funds, Creative Scotland 2009 could now consider further innovations in the way that it will provide a public service.


Amongst the recommendations the NESTA report makes are


• Opening up services to more ‘actors’, including enabling smaller, less established but potentially more innovative organisations (including social enterprises) to become providers

 •Strengthening ‘intermediary organisations’ 

Loal authorities, artists union, the cultural alliance, creative hubs, indie creative enterprises, voluntary organisations  are all potential partners in innovating in providing cultural and creative public services.

  The NESTA report argues that

 without bold new approaches our public services will be over-stretched by the short-term demands of the downturn and overwhelmed by the long-term challenges of the future

public services will have to deliver significantly better performance at significantly lower cost

we need a new way of innovating in our public services –a rigorous experimentation which encourages and embraces local solutions

we need to put users, consumers and citizens at the heart of innovation in public services as never before, as a force for change and as partners in designing and delivering services 

 we need to strengthen the methods by which we discover, develop, and diffuse innovations – including a greater capacity outside of existing organisations to support great ideas from inspiration to implementation.

The pressure on public finances caused by the recession is likely to lead to nearly £40 billion (England and Wales according to the report)  in reduced funding in the next few years, which will impact on the charities, voluntary groups and private sector companies that deliver public services, as well as the public sector itself.



The recession is exacerbating many major challenges, increasing the demand on existing services. For example:


Rising joblessness is impacting negatively on health and wellbeing, causing greater rates of family breakdown and depression.


  Crime and anti-social behaviour are rising.


 The recession is wiping hundreds of billions of pounds from pension funds.



  1. its pretty much axiomatic that anything which encourages innovation, knowledge exchange and collaboration is a good thing but underlying the fervour of policy initiatives, structural changes and incentives to encourage these, there is a long term underying structural shift in funding (if not crisis) of tectonic proportions that affects pretty much all public sector cultural activity from education to exhibition – the obsession with time-limted, project based, ‘additionality’ funding. In a nutshell less and less of organisations’ activity is supported by core funding on a reasonably long term basis and mre and more on the basis of project funding. As no funding agencu want to get locked into long term comitments this is slowly undermnining the fabric of our cultural institutions and storing up a huge problem for the future.

  2. agreed. I think the opportunities for innovation therefore are around light touch, sustainable methods of supporting cultural and creative activity through, for example, devolving funding and programmes to local partners.

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