In a world where people are making informed choices about almost every aspect of their life in a way that is convenient for them, and often aided and assisted by new technology, public services need to be equally responsive to these demands.
While it is both inevitable and legitimate for public services to be concerned about doing this, it is not something that should be feared and the change needs to be balanced against the value of opening up processes and encouraging experimentation as this will often lead to better, more radical innovations emerging.
The projects we have supported through Reboot Britain show that yes, collaborative technologies can be used to support and enhance our public services. They make it easier for people to do more for themselves; staff time is used more productively and new kinds of information improve the effectiveness of service interventions.
But what should people look out for if their innovation is to prove successful and sustainable? Here are some of our top tips:
1. Focus - be clear about what you are trying to achieve.
2. Understand the technology - be clear about why a technology offers a solution to the problem you have identified.
3. Keep it simple -make sure benefits are tangible and that solutions are easy for people to integrate into their everyday lives.
4. Make it happen - don't leave things to chance and plan what you need to do to make your innovation happen.
5. Wider social networks matter - you will need other people to make this work, they will come in all shapes and sizes, and you need to be able to work effectively together.
6. Participation is key - if you ignore your users you will ignore the very people you say you want to help and often they are best placed to come up with solutions.
7. Be prepared to adapt your ideas - although the core idea may not change, you have to be open to suggestions to do things differently.
8. Don't shy away from the nitty gritty - it's not glamorous and it's not sexy, but working through issues around risk, privacy and data protection is necessary and will be worth the effort.
9. Remember to pat yourself on the back - it will be hard work, but there will be successes and these need to be celebrated.
10. Don't fear the future - yes, this means doing things differently, but that does not need to be a bad thing.
Collaborative technologies do present new challenges for public services because established methods of management and service delivery are not set up to deal with the wider ramifications that their introductions trigger. At the same time, a common thread running through all of the Reboot programmes is how the blending of technology and social interaction can create wider value and potentially achieve transformational change.
The public service landscape is changing as the wider landscape, enabled by collaborative technologies, becomes more social and more collaborative. This will require a massive readjustment from public services, but this is a sector that is as adept as any at adapting and responding to new challenges. It also presents huge opportunities, so, as public service providers can see this change coming, why not get good at it?