Five ways to re-frame services for public good in Birmingham

Published: 6th Jul 2015

Senior leaders in the city know that they need to help their teams focus on the values that shape what they do. It’s hard to do though, hard to lift the head from process to values. Here some simple ideas from the people we have worked with and the experience we’ve had over 10 years at Podnosh:

1. Be useful and helpful:
This is a statement of the obvious, This is the whole point of public service, isn’t it? So often we meet people embroiled in public services that simply seem to be a process. If the process is useful to anyone it often feels like it’s the people who designed it. Have you created a service which allows the people on the coal face to say what’s the most useful thing I can do now? And then they can do it? Can they ask themselves how can I help here and have the permission to do the next most sensible thing? If not who is it for and is it likely to be wasting public effort ? So less like a mobile phone operator trying to prevent you closing your account and more like a neighbour who’s sharing their oven when yours is broken.

Good examples:

Pregnancy Outreach Service

2. Act like citizens:
Citizens tend to spot bullshit where bureaucrats don’t. Citizens tend to do what makes sense for their community, not their organisation. Citizens tend to get active about complacency or waste, not wearied by it. Why can’t workers also think and behave like citizens some or all of the time?

Cotteridge Park *
B31 Voices *
NHS Change day*
Young Rewired State*

3. Keep it simple – where you can:
Complex problems often lead to complicated processes to help solve them. We can easily get bogged down in the complicated. So how far can you get by doing simple things that can just be done?

Social Media Surgery*
New Optimists*
Hyperlocal Bloggers
Casserole club
Greaves Hall coffee mornings
Big Lunch
Park Run

4. Good relationship make for better services:
Collaboration is a product of good relationships, so concentrate on the relationships.

Community Policing
21st century public service*
Creation of a regional super council?
Birmingham Open Spaces Forum*

5. Be Generous:
Give so you can receive. If you want to collaborate with people in Birmingham to create public good start by giving what you can. Co-production is born from relationships, not wishful thinking. Open data is a generous act, it is trusting that, if you share, people will do good with this stuff.

Nat West/Entrepreneurial Spark
Birmingham Data Factory
Makeshift in Wolverhampton – supporting community activity, mentoring

I don’t pretend that this will solve all problems and the analogies I use won’t apply to all people. But I do think that framing public service using these principles more often will free up more resources for the very difficult or very complex problems.

Tranparency: The examples included here are just that, there will be many more and some you might dispute. Where there is an * asterix us lot at Podnosh have either worked on this or been involved with it.

Comments (5)


Can’t argue with any of that. That given, I suspect that this amounts to no more than platitudes. Does anyone seriously think that Timebanking presents a serious correction to decades of social and industrial restructuring which affect disadvantaged communities? I’ve looked through those projects and can’t help a vision of people standing Canute like on the beach in the face of an onrushing Tsunami of global capital flows and government cuts. I applaud the optimism but where you have a current chancellor who seems to relish in a fiscal strategy which rewards the already asset rich and seems intent on turning council estates into poverty ghettos, I can’t see this (very welcome and worthy) stuff turning the tide. I expect I’m one of the “wearied” though. The cliché is ‘never waste a crisis’ but the crisis is still real and all the ‘hope-y, change-y’ stuff doesn’t really do anything for someone who’s being turfed out because their meagre wage plus Housing Benefit doesn’t cover rent on some private sector rat-hole of a bedsit.


I agree with you sceptic that these approaches won’t solve the problems many councils and people are facing, but collaborating can help make scarce resources go further and can also make it possible to tap into new new relationships, which may create new resources, new energy that can be pointed at problems. How far will this go? At the moment certainly not far enough. Can we close the gap by doing the same we have before? I’m certain we can’t.


Hi Nick, we are planning to open an office in Birmingham. We are delivering Domiciliary care in London and Brighton, soon we will open offices in Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham.

We would like to contribute with our expertise and technology to greater health and social care integration, and provide an easy to use, optional route for local organisations to source a range of digital, technology and other support, cutting transactional procurement costs and driving quality and value for money.

We are working with a number of technology, data, and digital innovation partners and consultancies to strategically support objectives across the new healthcare landscape.

Could we meet on March 8?

Best regards, Kateryna


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