10 December, 2018
2:15 pm - 6:00 pm

Reimagining public services for citizens conference

Reform was delighted to work in partnership with Serco and the Serco Institute to hold this conference on imaginative thinking around public services. The conference brought together an audience of 200 informed and influential policymakers, business leaders, academics and media.

Conference agenda

14.15 – 14.45      Registration

14.45 – 15.00      Welcome and introduction

  • Andrew Haldenby, Director, Reform
  • Rupert Soames OBE, Group Chief Executive, Serco

The conference started with, Reform's Director Andrew Haldenby, highlighting why now is the time to reimagine public services, despite the distraction of Brexit, and how new technologies can provide the opportunity to do so. He emphasised that data-driven services had the potential to ensure that public services worked for, rather than on, citizens. Rupert Soames's introduction reflected on the consequences of private sector “hubris” on customers and suppliers, and the need for providers of outsourced public services to learn from the mistakes of the past. He talked of Serco’s four suggested principles for governing relations between Government and its suppliers: strengthening transparency in public contracting; establishing an “Orderly Exit Principle” for all parties to exit a contract; providing Government with a “living will”; and abiding by a mutual code of conduct.

15.00 – 16.00      Panel one: Innovation, data and digital in frontline public services

This panel brought together technologists, founders, and leading public sector figures.

Speakers included:

  • George Freeman MP, Member for Mid Norfolk and Former Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Life Sciences, House of Commons
  • Devika Wood, Founder and Chief Development Officer, Vida
  • Nicolaus Henke, Senior Partner, McKinsey & Company
  • Lisa Barrett, Director of Transformation, Ministry of Justice

The first panel focused on data-driven public services and the scope for innovative solutions to designing and delivering improved outcomes to citizens. The discussion emphasised the importance of ensuring the huge amounts of data generated around public services was collected, stored, shared, and utilised in ways that increased collaboration and digitally empowered users. There was a common consensus amongst the panellists that whilst a greater usage of technology was needed across public services, the issue was not the tech itself but how we scale-up its usage to reflect national services like the NHS.

Devika Wood emphasised how the use of technology had permitted her care agency to identify “pain points” in the existing system (including barriers around language, culture, or society) and develop platforms that worked around these issues. George Freeman MP similarly argued for a systemic approach to innovation, particularly around healthcare, and for empowered patients and a smarter healthcare system driven by a widespread use of efficient and cost-effective technology and bold financial incentives for innovation. Nicolaus Henke shifted the conversation more to data specifically, and explained that data had become such a key issue because 90 per cent of all data had been generated in only the last 2 years. Lisa Barrett emphasised how important networks between stakeholders and individuals were in deploying technology, as well as the need for a cultural shift amongst senior leadership when it came to deferring to experts in data or tech.

16.00 – 16.15      Break

16.15 – 17.15      Panel two: New models of public service delivery

This panel brought together leaders from across the spectrum including start-up CEOs and leading politicians who have advocated new delivery models.

Speakers included:

  • Professor Jo Pritchard MBE, Senior Consultant, Health and Social Care, Social Enterprise UK
  • Robert Pollock, Director, Social Finance
  • Rob Owen OBE, Chief Executive, St Giles Trust
  • Sir Bernard Jenkin MP, Chair, Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Select Committee

Whereas the first panel focused on the approaches to technology and data that are needed change public services in the UK, the second panel focused more on the tools and framework needed to harness these opportunities to improve citizen outcomes. The panellists highlighted a number of key themes including funding models, a shift to outcomes-based commissioning, the need for trust between all involved, and considerations of third sector strengths when designing and delivering public services. All four agreed that the focus needed to be on the people, as well as the tech, if public services were to be designed and delivered around the people who used them.

Rob Owen began by highlighting the problems created by our obsession with “cheap” public services, including forcing reactive rather than preventative models, and emphasised the need for individuals (including frontline staff) to be the focus of reform. Jo Pritchard talked about the dangers of poor practices and staggering statistics about the dangers of relying on data if no changes are actually implemented.  Robert Pollock spoke about the importance of outcomes-focused public services and the potential for social enterprises and Social Impact Bonds for shaping policy and stimulating investment. Finally, Sir Bernard Jenkins argued that instead of focusing on the minutiae of public service contracts, it was more important to change the landscape in which they are written. He called for executive leaders, MPs, and commissioners to learn the realities of public service delivery and to understand what citizens sought from the services they used.

17.15 – 17.30      Closing remarks

17.30 – 18.00      Drinks reception and networking

This conference was held in partnership with Serco and the Serco Institute:

Serco Institute


Reimagining public services for citizens

Reimagining public services for citizens

Innovation in the public sector is challenging, both for governments and for providers – why?