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Big Society and Innovation

April 15, 2011

We are in London the next few days. I could rant about how the hotels here don’t get that people expect WiFi and that the difference between Helsinki and here in WiFi access is more than amenities offerings.

The last two posts are about some observations I have been making about a subject of great interest to me and of significant importance to the future of many countries. The way we organize our social services is going to change. Everyone we speak to sees this as “what is so”. Governments are looking for answers which they describe as the need for innovation. The three necessary (but not sufficient) conditions for innovation Dave describes as:

-Starvation
-Pressure
-Perspective Shift

I have been trying to fit what I am seeing and hearing into this frame. the frame may be more complete by adding a fourth condition which I will call Purpose.

The starvation condition is fiscal constraint both in Finland and the UK. The pressure in the UK the Government dictating huge budgetary cuts. In Finland it is recognition that there will need to be cuts, a sort of presumed future state of starvation.

The pressure is urgent in the UK as there is a need to have something to fill the void that will be left by the cuts which are already underway. In Finland I am not sure there is anything more than it needs to occur.

The perspective shift in Finland is around moving from build and deliver government to a demand responsive and relationship centered approach (it is the same shift the Finns are looking for in business operations). In the UK it is being described as Big Society which looks for individuals, families, Non governmental organizations, and business to do more of the lifting.

What occured to me is that the UK initiatives on the fiscal side does not have a purpose other than reducing the size of the state. The Finns work is deeply routed in a commitment, to while reducing the size of government, to preserve the principles of equality, solidarity and caring that are the corner stone of the Nordic Welfare Model.

The big question is will innovation emerge. In the UK I would be surprised as there is no purpose that focuses the energies of innovation so it may just be the cuts. The Finns may not satisfy the pressure condition (no sence of urgency or pace) and in consequence wait too long.

On the perspective shift I think the Finns have the edge as the big society is too wooly a concept as it is being put in play. It is in fairness a perspective shift but without a clear end purpose who knows what it means.

Back to purpose I think it is essential. In the Apollo 13 example the purpose is saving the astronauts lives (clear and makes the rest fit).

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