What capability do public services most need in 2022 and beyond?

Benjamin P. Taylor
3 min readNov 22, 2021

The degree of stress, pressure, and overwhelm seems to have been growing for the last twelve years, with crushing austerity accelerated by the twin crises of COVID-19 and “Brexit”.

We have learned that we can rise to the occasion, as heroes — but the slow crises are even harder to deal with.

The challenges of climate catastrophe and simply trying to really make a difference in the world of citizens and communities, to maintain basic services, asks the impossible of us over longer periods of time.

We have learned that the more we centralise, the more we lose the connections with people’s lives.

We have learned that *we* have to be the people we are waiting for.

And when it’s all, truly, too much, we need to start to play on a bigger stage. We need to focus on:

- the outcomes we can influence for people, not just the provision of services against demand.

- the strengths that people can bring to bear, not just their needs and what they lack.

- ourselves as a part of the community and place, not the centre of the universe.

We need to double down on continual learning, changing how we think about our work, and even our identity, as well as learning to do our work better, to create the #innovation we need.

And we need to focus on the ethics of being part of a community.

We identified twelve requirements for adaptive public services and the #adaptivecouncil:

1. Be highly effective in systems thinking and the navigation of #complexity to meet the inter-related complexity of these challenges.

2. Work across boundaries and lead collaboratively — because the capabilities of a single organisation are no longer able to shape the kind of outcomes required.

3. Balance the deep technical skills still needed to play our role and deliver services, with emerging projects and collaboration

4. Embrace ‘municipal entrepreneurialism’, a creative and flexible approach to outcomes and risk rather than defensive focus, to generate income

5. Be highly engaged with adult development, with a practical focus: the need to have more ability to make sense of complex situations

6. Develop effective, open governance — critical to enable the other elements and for democratic legitimacy.

7. To address the trust deficit, be trustworthy.

8. Develop insight-led understanding, based on real understanding of people’s lives.

9. Offer a new flexible employment approach to fit in with lives and priorities.

10. Shape culture and identity in the organisation, partners, and community.

11. Generate rich, multi-level learning by reflecting on our actions.

12. Act as equal citizens, breaking from the model of ‘provider and customer’

What’s the one capability you think public services most need in the #future?