the blog posts

a new way for local government

Watching the Corporation of Hamilton saga over the past year was depressing. Questions regarding the allocation of funds. Confusion over a lease. Takeover and then restoration of financial controls. Resolution couldn't come fast enough.

Assuming the business of city hall is back on track, it occurs to me that it is probably time to reconsider "the way we do things".

hamilton circa 2007I have written before about participatory budgeting. This time, though, I want to highlight co-producing the commissioning of public services, something the blog Polis introduced to me in the article Commissioning Democratic Renewal by Joe Penny.

It's a radical notion: planning for public services with people instead of just for them. Where participatory budgeting involves the community voting on the allocation of funds for projects, usually from a short-list of agreed options, co-producing the commissioning of public services takes the planning of those services a step further. It is a space "where professionals and citizens share power to plan and deliver support services together, recognising that both partners have a vital contribution to make" (source: new economics foundation).

In this world, the co-producers are public servants and citizens working together to decide what service is required, develop tender documents and take part in the selection of the successful bidder. This is hands on stuff. It seems tailor-made for an entity suffering from reduced financial controls that, nonetheless, must provide city services. Framed that way, the Bermuda Government might want to consider this option itself.

And what are the benefits? Get more from the services. Better value for money. More involvement on the part of the those providing the service and those using the service. In short: truly inclusive decision-making at a local level. So, instead of participatory budgeting, where the community votes on a project to receive funding, co-production means the community is a crucial part of the project. Radical indeed.