22 Feb – The Conference for the Post-Bureaucratic Age

9 02 2010


I’m writing to invite you to the conference launching the Network for the Post Bureaucratic Age.

It explores current trends in social, political and technological change, and what this means for a new government. We have an array of first-class speakers and panelists, including David Cameron, the leader of the Conservative Party, Martha Lane Fox, the government’s digital inclusion champion, together with entrepreneurs and innovators from business, media, public services, campaigning, and government.

This isn’t just a showcase of new thinking, but includes active drafting of an innovations agenda and benchmarks for the next government (be it Labour or Conservative). It will seek to make progress towards a Freedom of Data Act. It launches a Network – conceived as a post-bureaucratic think tank working online and through events – to take these ideas forward. There will be a pre-conference briefing paper for participants from myself and Janan Ganesh (of The Economist).

If you would like to attend, please respond to RSVPtoPBA@yahoo.com

Spaces are strictly limited to please respond early.

Hope to get your involvement! All the best, Stephan

Event:                     Network for the Post-Bureaucratic Age

Date & Time:         9am to 6pm, Monday 22nd February 2010

Purpose:                To set the agenda and benchmarks for a Post-Bureaucratic Government


9:00-10.00 Registration

10:00-10.15 Welcome and Introduction (Stephan Shakespeare, YouGov)

10.15-10:45 Keynote Address by The Rt Hon David Cameron MP

10-45-11:15 Coffee & Networking

11:15-12:45        Session 1: will focus on the themes of social, political and technological change, and what this means for a new government

Chair, Rory Sutherland (Vice Chairman & Creative Director, Ogilvy Group)

Speakers: Bill Eggers (author of “If We Can Put A Man On The Moon: Getting Big Things Done in Government”; “Government 2.0: Using Technology to Improve Education, Cut Red Tape, Reduce Gridlock, and Enhance Democracy”; “Governing by Network: The New Shape of the Public Sector”; Fellow, Manhattan Institute; Global Research Director, Deloitte)

Martha Lane Fox (Government Champion for Digital Inclusion, Co-founder lastminute.com and Antigone, a charitable fund)

Edward Wray (Chairman and Co-Founder, Betfair)

Kristian Segerstrale (CEO and Co-Founder, Playfish, Co-Founder Glu Mobile)

Sarah Beeny (Founder and CEO, MySingleFriend.com & Tepilo.com)

Eric Baker (Founder and CEO Viagogo)

Peter Bazalgette (TV Producer, Digital Investor, Chairman Sony Music TV)

William Heath (Founder MyDex, Ctrl-Shift, IdealGov blog)

12.45-1.45 Lunch & Networking

1.45-3:15                              Session 2: Post-Bureaucratic Government and the ‘More-For-Less’ agenda: how we drive innovation through the public sector

Chair, Neil O’Brien (Director, PolicyExchange)

Speakers: Skip Stitt (former Senior Deputy Mayor and Chief Operating Officer for the City of Indianapolis; COO of ACS Inc, Washington DC)

Liam Maxwell (Cabinet Member for Performance, Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead. Leading the Transparency Initiative and street-level Participatory Budget process)

Professor Mark McGurk (Guy’s and St Thomas’s Hospital Trust)

Toby Young (author of “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People”, now creating a new type of ‘free’ school where access to a good education is not based on income)

Jonathan Kestenbaum (CEO, NESTA)

Adrian Ringrose, (Chief Executive of Interserve Plc, Chairman of the CBI’s Public Services Strategy Board)

Martin Brookes (Chief Executive, New Philanthropy Capital)

3.15-3.45 Coffee & Networking

3.45-5:15                              Session 3: Setting the Agenda and Benchmarks for a Post-Bureaucratic Government; towards a Freedom of Data Act

Chair, Stephan Shakespeare (YouGov)

Speakers: Heather Brooke (author and freedom-of-information activist who led the movement for the full disclosure of MP expenses)

Tom Steinberg (Founder of MySociety, TheyWorkForYou, FixMyStreet, WhatDoTheyKnow)

Matthew Elliot (founder, TaxPayer’s Alliance)

Peter Kellner (President, YouGov)

Peter Hoskin (Spectator Magazine)

Richard Allan (Director of Policy EU, Facebook; former LibDem MP)


Government Procurement Plans

11 01 2010

Today, Liam Byrne,Secretary to the Treasury,  has announced an action plan setting out how the Government will harness the £220 billion spent by the public on third party goods and services to support growth and economic recovery.

The (catchy) Policy Through Procurement Action Plan

Published by the Office of Government Commerce (OGC), the 2009 Plan (announced at the Pre-Budget Review) emphasises three principles:

  • Supporting small and medium-sized enterprises;
  • Encouraging apprenticeships, training and youth employment;
  • Reducing carbon emissions.

95% of contracts are won by UK businesses.

The Rub

This seems a sensible move to ensure that UK government spend supports those hardest hit by the recession: small business and people without skills or qualifications. However, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

In order to supply the government, a company must be registered on an approved supplier list. These vary from sector to sector. I can tell you from personal experience that this is a long, laborious process, which contains arbitrary limits to determine which contracts a supplier can bid for.

The Plan expects to help deliver its objectives by encouraging suppliers to sign up to its voluntary Supplier Charter, but doesn’t make it any easier to become a supplier! A couple of smart PR moves to meet the objectives – a few apprentices and a Toyota Prius – and government procurement will continue much as before.

There is an Access to All programme, which contains the wonderfully encouraging line:

“The Government’s policy on SMEs is to encourage and support these organisations to compete for public sector contracts where this is consistent with value for money policy the UK regulations, EU Treaty principles and EU procurement directives.”

So, small business is welcome on the rare occasions that it treads on literally no one else’s feet?

There is an even more patronising document covered in high-resolution pictures of fish, presumably as some small-fish-big-pond metaphor, which contains some innovative advice for public procurement departments:

“Use your website (see page 10). It is an ideal way of making information available at low cost and
consider including a ‘Selling to…’ guide giving potential suppliers the information they need to
bid effectively.”

With this kind of cutting-edge advice, how can government fail to light the fire of innovation?

SAVE THE DATE : and please help right now!

16 12 2009

In May 2000 I co-founded YouGov, the online polling agency. The name ‘YouGov’ derived from the idea of ‘You Govern’ – bringing power and responsibility to the people, away from state and business bureaucracies.

On the 22nd February 2010, I’m bringing together a ‘network for the post-bureaucratic age’ for a one-day conference in London. The name of the conference is “Control Shift”, and will be opened by David Cameron. We will also have the participation of politicians from other parties, as this is a non-partisan and independent initiative.

This is not a think-tank or a pressure group, but a network. We have identified you as among the key thinkers, activists, and sector specialists, and would like to invite you to become part of our network. We would like to enlist your experience to help us put on a first-rate launch conference, to be followed by continuous online activity and further conferences, which will galvanize and coordinate efforts to bring post-bureaucratic solutions to government, business and society.

We intend to address three key topics within the PB agenda:

Democracy: how PBA developments can make government more transparent and subject to public influence

Services: how a post-bureaucratic society can benefit from new ways to provide public services

Procurement: how the biggest spender can become the best spender, not only getting more value-for-money but supporting innovation and enterprise

This is not about the technology, but the use of the technology, so this network is as much for entrepreneurs and social activists as for people with backgrounds in technology.

For this reason, in addition to addressing practical issues, we are also addressing a fourth topic: the thinking that underpins the post-bureaucratic age, and setting up some benchmarks by which to judge new efforts by government to embrace it.

What I ask from you today:

a)      Please use the comments section to send me your expression of interest or email me at stephan.shakespeare@yougov.com , together with any feedback on what topics we should cover, who the network should include, who should be invited to speak (and why)

b)      Please send any contacts who you think would be interested to this page

Thank you in advance for your help,

Stephan Shakespeare

Network for the Post-Bureaucratic Age

When Vision and Technology are Not Aligned

10 12 2009

Excellent piece over at http://www.publicservice.co.uk by Jerry Fishenden, co-founder of the Centre for Technology Policy Research and visiting senior fellow at the London School of Economics.

Fishenden’s short piece focuses on what they government has achieved in the last ten years, with approximately £100-£120bn spent on ICT. There have been horror headlines about the NHS IT system which has ballooned way beyond budget and is still not operational; and government IT procurement remains non-transparent and remarkably poor value.

The CIO and CTO Councils have been, in Fishenden’s opinion, a success in the way that they have brought together IT specialists from different departments to discuss ideas. This is something approaching the fabled ‘joined-up-government’ that has hitherto been as mythical as the Holy Grail itself.

The real strength of Fishenden’s assessment comes when he hones in on the greatest flaw in the government’s ICT strategy:

“It considers technical issues in isolation, adrift from the necessary public policy context and vision.”

This is why we have seen precious little improvement, and is a problem that the government is not unique in experiencing. The successful collaboration between vision, strategy, and technical capability has plagued private companies as much as government. It is a chicken-and-egg situation: technical staff cannot provide the appropriate systems or technology, because they do not know (or cannot see) the wider implications for management; management do not understand the technological capabilities to create the optimum strategy and vision.

One of the questions which is fundamental to the speed and ease of transition into the post-bureaucratic age will be how well government is able to release the potential of technology as a means of delivering cheaper, more accessible, more transparent government.

Darling’s Broadband Tax

9 12 2009

In his pre-Budget Report, Chancellor Darling announced that a £6 per year tax will be levied on all households with a fixed phone line, in order to pay for the expansion of the UK’s super-fast broadband services into rural areas.

BT estimate that such expansion will cost £5bn, while Darling’s proposed scheme is expected to generate £170m per year. His target is to provide 90% of UK homes with super-fast broadband by 2017.

Impact for the post-bureaucratic age

The truth is that it is impossible to say what extending broadband will cost. Experts think 30% of homes will be by-passed by commercial fast broadband plans, but this figure will be market-dependent, so is very difficult to calculate accurately. Tax breaks for companies which provide rural broadband seem like a more reasonable solution. The Conservatives have said they will scrap the proposed tax if they win the election, and focus on market-driven solutions to the problem.

Broadband coverage is something of an elephant in the corner when it comes to discussing the post-bureaucratic age. Universal, fast, and reliable internet connections are absolutely fundamental to the speed and ease with which Britain can move into this new era. The government should see its provision as a necessary investment which will bring a return (by lowering the cost of public services), rather than a cost to be borne by the public.

The announcement may come as something of a boon to providers of mobile broadband, although the low £6 p.a. figure will probably not be enough to deter many consumers in favour of the higher speeds that fixed lines can bring.

See the excellent SamKnows site for more information on Digital Britain and the limits of broadband.

Ali Unwin ( @aliunwin)


8 12 2009

The government’s PUTTING THE FRONTLINE FIRST paper was picked up in the press because it included £3 billion of savings identified since Budget 2009, and a proposal to cut senior civil service pay by £100 million per year.

However, for this blog, its comments on the post-bureaucratic age were far more interesting, and indeed encouraging. Gordon Brown’s introduction included four aspects in particular that caught my attention.

The Encouraging

“Investing £30 million over three years to get a further one million people online; and increasing the number of services available via the internet, including some benefits claims.”

While £30 million will almost certainly not be enough to achieve this goal, it is a step in the right direction. The more services on the internet, the better.

“Rolling out nationally Tell Us Once, so citizens need only notify government once for any birth or death.”

It is staggering that you cannot do this already (ditto with change of address), but an obvious way to cut paperwork and the cost of civil service administration. Perhaps service providers (everything from your magazine subscriptions to electricity suppliers) should be required to check their own databases against the deaths database to prevent charging the deceased.

“Radically opening up data and public information, releasing thousands of public data sets – including Ordnance Survey mapping data, real-time railway timetables, data underpinning NHS choices, and more detailed departmental spending data – and making them free for re-use.”

Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Professor Nigel Shadbolt have been working on this for some time, and the opening of some OS data last month suggests that things are really happening. Data.gov.uk  is due to go live in beta form later this month also.

“Harnessing the power of comparative data to improve standards, publishing public services performance data online by 2011, starting in 2010 with more detailed data on crime patterns, costs of hospital procedures and parts of the National Pupil Database.”

Again, excellent news for government transparency and accountability. The public will be allowed to view and audit the services they pay for and use. The essence of what the post-bureaucratic age (at first instance) means to public services.

The Less-Good

There was also a lot of overly-general, ‘let’s cut waste and streamline’ parts to the report, which suggests that the government may not have taken up the spirit of the post-bureaucratic age as far as their more innovative announcements might suggest. For example,  the phrase “Reducing red tape on frontline services and improving flexibility“, meaningless though it may be, carries all the worst assumptions of bureaucratic government: the state controls it, knows about it, reforms it, and performs it.

The other big problem for the Labour government, is that many of these ideas are Conservative in origin or association. Localism, reduced bureaucracy, open data, and the smaller state were Conservative ideas before the government published its report. Gordon Brown has tried to recast Cameron’s ‘smaller state’ as the ‘smarter’ state, although the policies Brown puts forward in support of this end will make the state smaller in the manner Cameron has suggested.


This will probably not be a big vote-winner for either party. It will, however, be hugely significant when it comes to the business of governing. These are easy commitments to make, but much more difficult to keep (for example when comparative data shows a government initiative has failed).

Ali Unwin (@aliunwin)

Advanced Global Collaboration: Frost & Sullivan Whitepaper

11 11 2009

Verizon and Cisco sponsored this whitepaper by Frost & Sullivan, which charts ‘the course of advanced collaboration’.

Frost & Sullivan have boldly proposed the first model to calculate the Return on Collaboration (ROC). The main method for this model is a global-reaching survey of people who work in the IT and Communications Industry, and then subdivision into ‘basic’, ‘intermediate’, and ‘advanced’ collaborators. A basic ‘ROC Index’ stems from this research – broadly speaking a cost/benefit analysis – and shows that R & D and Sales departments make the best use of collaborative technologies. This is much more effective in larger organisations (more than 1000 employees).

The report rightly focuses on the importance of an open and collaborative culture to successful internal collaboration within a business.