18 December 2015

As local government and frontline services implement reforms following the Spending Review, there’s a need for a fresh look at how local services can learn from what’s happening elsewhere in the country, to improve services for citizens and to work more efficiently. Dr. Jo Casebourne looks at the issues.

In our report Joining Up Public Services Around Local, Citizen Needs we highlighted several examples of how to join up local services. As our new interactive timeline shows, since 1997 there have been many initiatives aimed at improving 'joining up'. To achieve system-wide change, we need better ways of spreading these models and practices. If we don’t get better at sharing ‘what works’ in different circumstances, we could miss the opportunity that English devolution provides to join up local public services.

At the Institute for Government, we are going to try and tackle this issue by looking at how to improve the sharing and adaptation of effective models and practices. Over the next few months we will:

  • identify effective models for sharing learning, ideas and experiences
  • support local leaders in finding effective approaches to joining up and integrating public services, and adapting elements to the context in which they operate
  • encourage central government officials to understand their role in supporting better sharing and adaptation at a local level.

One of the questions we’ll ask is ‘what gets in the way of sharing learning and experiences’? Is it an information problem (perhaps the right kind of information doesn’t exist or there is a lack of evidence of what works), a coordination problem (there’s so much information that it’s hard to find what’s needed), a capacity problem (there aren’t the people to do this in public services, perhaps due to spending cuts), or an adaptation problem (the information is there but it’s not clear how to apply it)? We’ll be looking at how this differs by the type of information and knowledge being shared.

We’ll also be asking what the most effective models are for diffusing learning and ways of working. Our work will map the past and current attempts to help people working in public services at a local level to share. There are a number of different ways to do this:

These examples employ (or employed) different methods, share different types of information, and are aimed at different types of professionals, from chief executives to frontline staff; and they have different levels of evidence on their effectiveness.

We want to know what lessons and insights we can draw from these different approaches, to develop a better model of sharing for those delivering public services at a local level. That’s what we’ll be focusing on in the next few months. If you’re interested in hearing more or contributing to our research please do get in touch.

Further information

Dr. Jo Casebourne (Programme Director): jo.casebourne@instituteforgovernment.org.uk or

Sophie Wilson (Researcher): Sophie.wilson@instituteforgovernment.org.uk