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Slow down, You Move too Fast!

19 September 2011

There is a genuine lack of understanding of the nature of innovation in public services, according to a senior University of Ulster academic. 

Dr Gordon Marnoch, who is a Reader in Public Policy at Ulster’s School of Criminology, Politics and Social Policy, warned against ‘change for the sake of change’ and said change does not necessarily lead to improved public services. 

“Politicians seem to have this need to be associated with new ideas and because of this, public services managers, are under pressure to demonstrate that they can be innovative.”  

He continued: “Change is often introduced for the sake of change. In the health service for example, we see pilot scheme after pilot scheme being introduced without any real evaluation or analysis of the scheme before moving on to the next ‘good’ idea.”  

Dr Marnoch said that it can often take up to several years for the benefits of change to be realised. “Innovation in the public service and its impact needs to be properly analysed. We need to slow down and move away from this frenzy of change. The NHS, social services, police, schools and other public services are subject to a great deal of change. This impacts on staff morale and affects the delivery of service and not always for the better.  

“We don’t have the money for this constant tinkering with public services, particularly now in times of austerity. Change must be evidence based and any pilot projects should be thoroughly evaluated. This is not happening as consistently as is desirable.”

Dr Marnoch, whose main research and teaching interests include health policy and the performance and evaluation of public services, is chairing this week’s ESRC (Economic and Social Research Council) seminar at the Ulster’s Jorandanstown campus.

‘Research based theory on innovation in public services - the state of play’, is the second in the ESRC seminar series “Innovation in the Public Services. Other seminars in the series are being hosted by University of Edinburgh, University of Bath and Cardiff University. The series addresses what the organisers see as a lack of a genuine understanding of the nature of innovation and its distinctive policy and managerial challenges with contributions from academics, policy makers and public service managers.     

ESRC Public Services Innovation Seminar takes places in Loughview, Block 8 Jordanstown on Friday, 23 September from 9.30 am 16.30 pm.  If interested in attending, please contact Dr. Gordon Marnoch. Only a small number of places will be available.