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Public service operating principles

Public service operating principles, in two columns. See the main post for details.

Last month I drafted a table contrasting the traditional command-and-control approach to public services with the co-production / involvement / citizen-centred approach. Then I put it out on twitter to see what people thought of it. It wasn’t bad but there were a few things I wasn’t 100% about, particularly the “oldskool” label (but at that point I wasn’t clear how else to describe it).

It was this, fyi:

A two column table shows "old school" principles on the left, and co-production and involvement principles on the right. For the detailed transcript see the updated version below.

The feedback and responses surpassed my hopes and expectations and the conversations that resulted really helped me develop my thinking. I have now arrived at a more exhaustive v2, that includes more aspects with more clarity.

The standout lightbulb moment was that “oldskool” made the left hand column feel passé, out of date, and not to be used any more. I unconsciously used terms that made it look bad and like it should be abandoned in favour of co-production. I’m pleased to present an updated version where these two sets of principles are alternatives to each other, not “bad” and “good”. The left hand approach is useful in some contexts, but shouldn’t be applied as a blanket approach (which is what has tended to happen); and the right hand column is fantastic and inclusive and innovative, but not suitable for everything. Sometimes you call in the experts, sometimes you gather the people. The key thing is to know when to use which.

The updated version is below, and I am still open to feedback and development.

Public service operating principles, in two columns, shown below line by line (left against right) * the old default: useful, but not as a blanket approach / the (future) new default? do this much more, but sometimes use the other * traditional: path of least resistance / innovation: initial learning curve * doing to, doing for: consultation, engagement, participation / doing with: co-production & involvement * deficit based: what’s wrong? / strengths based: what can we build on? * specialised silos: specific focus, no need to share / networked, open: collaboration & connections lead to new ideas * outputs and target setting: what can we measure? / outcomes and what matters: what difference do we make in people’s lives? * transactional: we deliver / relational: we create together * hierarchies & incentives: extrinsic motivation / communities & shared values: intrinsic motivation * professional as expert: our job is to have the right answers / professional as facilitator: our job is to ask the right questions * service-driven: where do people fit in to the service? / relationship-centred: how do we understand each other? * extractive and interpretive service design and research / participative and co-productive service design and research * complicated: linear, predictable systems / complex: networked, adaptive systems * control - failure is catastrophic: we can’t afford to fail / curiosity - failure is learning: we learn by doing at the right scale * centralised decision making: management, services are engineered / distributed decision making: evolutionary, services grow * risk averse: plan up front and cover every eventuality / purposeful, calculated risks: we need to discover as we go along * replicability of solutions: creating the right results / replicability of practices: creating the right conditions * best practice: one model to aspire to, fixed / good practice: this is what worked for us, situational * traditional evaluation / developmental evaluation * top down strategy deployment / whole system continuous learning * representative democracy / participative democracy Feedback: @copronetwales / v3 August 2019 Hat tip to @FutureGov @CPI_Foundation @PeoplesVoice

The pdf is available to download at

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