The Public Policy Institute for Wales brought together an invited group of leading public management experts and Welsh Government officials to explore the existing evidence about public service improvement and identify future evidence needs to support incoming Ministers. Workshop participants included senior academics and representatives from Y Lab, the Early Intervention Foundation, What Works Scotland, the Institute for Government, the Office for Public Management, the Public Services Transformation Network, Wales Public Services 2025 and the Welsh Government. Our latest report, summarised below, documents the workshop discussion.
The experts concluded that the challenges resulting from fiscal and demographic pressures mean that public services in Wales need to be reformed. They agreed that there is no universal theory of public service improvement which can be applied to all services and in all contexts, but they did identify a wealth of practical knowledge about approaches that have been effective elsewhere.
Experts concluded that we need more robust evidence about how to incentivise change in complex interdependent public service systems such as education, health and social care, and they emphasised the importance of understanding what will work best in different parts of Wales. A one size fits all approach will not work even in a relatively small country so we need more evidence about how to ensure that programmes meet the needs of different communities and different types of service users.
The workshop also highlighted the importance of cultural change in public services. In particular public service professionals should be encouraged and rewarded for trying out new approaches and better at working across organisational boundaries. Our experts suggested that policy-makers and practitioners be encouraged to embrace ‘experimental government’ which tests what works and inspires organisations to scale up successful innovations.