In 2012 a growing movement of leaders will challenge the separation of public and private sectors, united in a desire to generate social value through services that respect the complexity and chaos of human life. These public servant leaders will be as influential in challenging current practice as Jane Jacobs' seminal 1961 text was on planning in American cities. Like Jacobs they may have had no professional training or hold the job title. Instead they will rely on observations and common sense to illustrate why certain approaches work, and what can be done to improve those that do not. Like Jacobs they will focus not on the day to day change but on establishing core principles to guide significant positive changes.
This will destroy the dominant authoritarian style of public service management, where tasks are clearly defined and excessively monitored, and all decision-making responsibility rests with the executive. In its place will come a more participative and networked leadership style, involving employees, users and beneficiaries in co-creating solutions with those they intend to serve and depend on.
Those working in public bodies are coming to the realisation you don't necessarily need to be in the sector to contribute to great services. The inspiring stories captured by Craig Dearden Phillips in How to Step Out, published by NESTA, tells how former public servants like Andrew Burnell, have led services through transition into a successful and dynamic enterprise, City Health Care Partnership CIC. Given the responsibility and accountability for their own success has reconnected staff with the true spirit of public sector values.
Meanwhile those working outside of today's public sector aren't waiting for permission from an opening up of public services but are actively entering the market by creating their own solutions. Recognising ideas can come from anyone, organisations like Social Innovation Camp are bringing people, ideas and digital tools together to create new solutions - all in 48 hours. While committees and reports will spend months considering how to generate jobs or respond to the riots, these agile and lean processes will draw on a wealth of talent across sectors to generate solutions like FLIP, an online tool for young people to tell their friends what their skills and talents are, building into a professional CV and job support or MyPolice, which enables online conversations between the public and police. These tools don't need to be developed by the public sector but they do need a public sector open to engaging with new ideas if their value is to be realised.
Other entrepreneurs are being inspired to build businesses with a social purpose. Deborah Szebeko who founded thinkpublic, was originally motivated following her experience of volunteering as a project manager at Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital. It was here that she experienced first-hand the impact design can have on improving the patient experience, following which she has built a business applying social design skills to public services.
NESTA have backed many of these organisations and through their work we are increasingly witnessing a convergence of leaders from within communities, companies and public bodies united in a desire for creating social value. They are people like you, people who have a different way of thinking, acting, leading and doing. People who want to get the very best out of every situation, not just for themselves but for those that they serve, recognising, that to be a good leader you must first be a good servant.
While some may argue we witnessed the death of public services, 2012 may turn out to be a turning point from which a dramatic change will follow built on the foundations laid by a new generation of public servants who are giving birth to a future of great public services. These are the New Radicals NESTA is searching for in 2012.
Follow our daily updates on Twitter @nesta_uk
Share your views on our Facebook page
Take part in the discussion on our LinkedIn group
Get email updates about our work twice a month