David Albury’s lessons in better outcomes for lower costs

The writer of the UK government’s pioneering report on innovation is back in Australia to work with agency leaders to foster a culture of innovation. He spoke to The Mandarin.

Innovation and the public service were not terms that often went together before Geoff Mulgan and David Albury (pictured) wrote their pioneering report for the British government in 2003. The sector has changed remarkably over the last decade, however, and Albury has found a significant following, eager to change their organisations, their culture and themselves in pursuit of better deliverance of public service.

Not just better outcomes, but also cheaper. Albury believes innovation has become critical as agencies reconcile their budgets with several inescapable trends: changing demands, technology, globalisation, building an environmentally-sustainable way of living and adjusting to the pressures on post-global financial crisis budgets. He told The Mandarin:

“In their experience of other sectors, they expect higher levels of service, more ready access to service. The nature of the demand has also changed. Perhaps it is most experienced in health, where we have a health system designed for acute, infectious disease, even injury, but the major challenges are now those in the elderly population and chronic diseases.”

A public health service that has been finely tuned to efficiently cater to the previous era won’t adapt quite so easily to 21st century needs. Each sector is facing its own challenges in this respect, but also new technology and social media have opened up possibilities for service delivery. When there’s all sorts of ways we can provide health care and enable people to fill in their tax returns — where a decade ago it would have been impossible — there’s pressure to change, Albury says, albeit in positive ways.

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