Losing control in government: can Whitehall learn to let go?

In recent decades, the UK public sector has embraced a service delivery mindset inspired by management practices from the private sector. The extensive use of centrally-set targets and metrics, and a narrow focus on customers and ‘scaling what works’, has concentrated power towards Whitehall and away from the places and communities who arguably better understand their own needs.

It has become evident that this model is failing to tackle some of the wicked problems we are facing today. In response, a different mindset is emerging in many innovative organisations and public agencies around the country.

Rather than focusing on managing services directly and driving efficiencies, these new practices aim to cultivate the conditions from which good solutions are more likely to emerge. The emphasis is on enablement rather than delivery – with the needs of citizens at the heart of policymaking.

In the Losing Control session, Adrian Brown and Elena Bagnera from the Centre for Public Impact will set the case for a radical rebalancing of power in government. Participants will be invited to think creatively and ask themselves what enablement means to them and where they have seen it work in practice. Some of the questions that will be discussed include:

  • How can we catalyse systemic change?
  • What steps can we take now that will trigger change elsewhere?
  • What will make Whitehall give up control?

The shift from delivery to enablement will require effort from all of us to challenge established ways of working and inspire others to do the same. The session will open up possibilities around how this transition may happen and how we could all play a part in this.

Get more info on CPI’s work on enablement here.

Find out more about Elena Bagnera & Adrian Brown’s session on ‘Losing Control in Government’ and read the rest of the Losing Control programme here.

Photo by Austin Ban on Unsplash