There is growing support amongst politicians and public servants for the idea that citizen participation should be central to public services. But while there are many good examples of ‘people powered’ services, they are the exception rather than the norm. To achieve further change, we need a cultural shift - a change in attitudes towards the role of public services and perceptions about how public services should act. Co-production and community participation should be built into the way that public services are designed and commissioned. By doing this we can open up many more services to benefit from additional community resource, as well as offering new ideas and models for service delivery.
Policy makers can support this in two ways: by encouraging and incentivising public services to develop new services with People Power’ at their core, and by testing ways of normalising volunteering and making it more widespread. This task demands action from across government, and requires changes to the way we think about the national support infrastructure for community participation.
1. Create a new executive agency with funding and other powers, responsible for embedding to civic participation in public services and communities.
2. Give employees a right to request time off for volunteering roles, extending the existing right to ask for time off for roles such as school governor duties, to all voluntary activity.
3. Introduce a ‘Year of Paid Service’ offer for uniformed public servants approaching pension age - creating an optional sabbatical year working in volunteering roles and other forms of civic participation for fire fighters, police and other uniformed public servants.
4. The National Commissioning Academy should produce practical management and commissioning tools for commissioners to help them embed civic participation in service delivery models.