Public sector innovation is not a new phenomenon. Yet in recent years, the number of public sector organizations exploring new ways to deliver services has grown rapidly. There are several factors that have contributed to this.
- Governments at all levels are increasingly finding they need to innovate to keep up with the rapid pace of change in our society.
- An increased use of digital technology has allowed public sector organizations to better understand how citizens want services delivered.
- There is an increased acceptance that new income streams are needed to maintain or improve service levels.
As a result many local authorities have been busy innovating in recent years to bring in new revenue.
Here are some of the best examples of public sector innovation.
Clean Energy Innovation
With increasing energy costs and a climate emergency being declared by many councils, solar farms have been an increasingly common approach to revenue generation in recent years. Plymouth City Council for example have partnered with a local charity Plymouth Energy Community develop a 13MWh community-owned solar farm on an old landfill site. The new installation should produce enough electricity to power almost 4,000 homes.
Social Care Innovation
One smart approach to public sector innovation is to consider the capabilities you already have, then see it you can commercialize any of them. Leeds City Council have been taking this approach with social care. They have been exploring the possibility of selling social care services to older people (or their children) who can afford to pay for it. This might include services like cleaning, personal care and household tasks.
Residential and Commercial Property Development
Property development is one of the most commonly used revenue generation techniques for local government organizations. Councils can make a profit on their investment while taking on risks and delivering social benefits that commercial operators often avoid. Examples include:
- Residential property development of brownfield sites
- Taking on failed commercial property developments and turning them around
- Property investment funds
School Meals Innovation
School meals in many locations may be out-sourced to a commercial supplier. In Birmingham, a decision was taken to in-source school meal provision as an ethical, healthy and yet also a commercial service.
We’ve been working with Surrey County Council recently who also in-source all their school meals. They are exploring how they might add a meal delivery service to their existing offer in a more environmentaly friendly way than existin providers – using local suppliers and delivery via lockers at school locations.
Training and Skills Innovation
Typically, one of the quickest ways to generate new revenue is to sell the expertise you already have in-house. Nottinghamshire County Council have used this approach to create a commercial service around employment skills training services. This is now a service that can deliver both social good and revenue.
Several local government organizations have created their own local lottery designed to support local good causes and generate additional revenue for the council.
Building Maintenance and Facilities Management
Commercial property maintenance and facilities management are a set of skills that many councils have. Cheshire West Council is one of many that have commercialised their service and use it to generate income.
Domestic Energy Supplies
Cheshire West Council have partnered with Qwest Energy to become a domestic energy supplier in their region.
Litter and Dog Fouling Services
East Hampshire Council created a commercial company to provide litter and dog fouling enforcement services. They now sell that service to eight other councils providing a revenue stream for them and lower costs for their clients as the service is centralized and more efficient.
Surrey County Council have discovered that many of their library buildings occupy prime high-street locations – often with large (and under used) picture windows. They are currently exploring how they might make use of this resource to create a unique retail offer that would support their core library service.