Friday, November 09, 2007

Vision, Brown and the market for think tanks

Last month Prospect magazine gave the “left-leaning” Institute of Public Policy Research the accolade of Think Tank of the Year. I see this as significant given IPPR’s closeness to New Labour and power – plus a government in search of the “vision thing”.

It is note-worthy that the IPPR has been thinking and promoting reform ideas quite distinct form the Blairite agenda of choice and competition. Public Finance has carried an article by Carey Oppenheim and Lisa Harker setting out a Brownite “narrative” of collaboration between users and producers.

The two IPPR staffers identify behind “personalisation” and “co-production”, two guiding principles:

The first is that people should have more opportunity to shape their own public services and should be better involved and informed. The notion is that ‘how’ public services are delivered is as important as ‘what’ they deliver. The second principle is that a transformation of outcomes will only come about if users of services are jointly involved with professionals in achieving changes in behaviour. This might sound pretty unradical but it is likely to change fundamentally the experience of using public services as a patient or parent.

That all makes sense.

But I would suggest that public services still require incentives to change, innovate, improve quality and reduce costs – in other words, there is a need for the disciplines of markets. Think tanks like Reform and the Social Market Foundation continue to develop ideas around choice and competition.

No comments: