Thinking differently about savings

Innovate to Save’s Generating Savings workshop (April 19 2017) was designed to give participants a new method to aid thinking about where and how savings might be made. Its focus was on the 12 Economies Method - a tool that can help organisations identify new ways to generate savings and to think differently about how they deliver their services. In this post, we’re sharing some top tips and resources from that workshop.

New cost reduction ideas and initiatives

It is crucial that we develop different ways to generate innovation at the same time as addressing the need to make savings. The 12 Economies Method lists a series of ways in which services can save money, and serves as a prompt for services struggling to cope with cuts.

Most organisations are fairly familiar with economies of scale and scope, but the notion of relational economies, economies of flow, or economies of penetration are perhaps less well recognised and many of these terms will be new to most people working in public and third sector organisations.

The very standard ways of saving money - just stopping things, trimming or delaying, and other fairly familiar methods like aggregating services or building up scale, have likely already been all but exhausted. Some of the most interesting innovations are likely to come from thinking more radically.

The 12 Economies method helps prompt people in public services to think more creatively and radically; can they tap into public motivations, or eliminate bottlenecks in one part of the system that create costs in another, or simply make costs visible?

Top five tips to think differently about where and how to generate savings

  1. Think laterally.  Ask where new kinds of public commitment can be mobilised, or where transparency can reduce costs;

  2. Work in partnership. New approaches to partnership working can eliminate duplication and deliver efficiencies as well as providing new thinking and ideas;

  3. Put the people using your services at the heart of your savings decisions. What are the long-term effects of your proposed economies? How will they affect the people who use your services? Will they end up costing you more? Use the promises and potential map as a starting point to understand the impact your new ideas might have.

  4. Utilise performance data to identify new opportunities. This will also help you understand the impacts of your proposals and to work out what resources and other inputs you need to take your ideas forward;

  5. Use the 12 Economies Method to generate new ideas quickly. An effective way to use the 12 Economies Method is to gather small groups of frontline staff or managers to generate options under each of the 12 headings, and then assess which are viable in the short, medium or long-term.

Top tools and resources to generate savings

  1. 12 Economies worksheet

  2. 12 Economies Examples - a work in progress matrix populated by Y Lab to illustrate different types of Economies.  Projects listed here haven’t, to our knowledge, used the framework but do represent examples of the different economies for illustrative purposes

  3. Promises and Potential map

​More about the workshop and Innovate to Save

Innovate to Save has been set up to support new ideas that have the potential to generate cashable savings for Welsh public services and improve the quality of service delivery. The programme places as much emphasis on providing the right support and tools to develop robust project proposals as it does the funds to allow organisations to achieve change. During phase 1 of the programme, the support on offer takes the form of a series of workshops that have been designed to support different parts of the application form to participate in the R&D phase of Innovate to Save. More information about the programme is available here.

The slides from this workshop can be found here

If you’d like to find out more about the workshops or the Innovate to Save programme, please get in touch:

Angharad: [email protected] / 029 2251 0320


Angharad Dalton

Angharad Dalton

Angharad Dalton

Programme Manager, Y Lab

Angharad is the Programme Manager for Innovate to Save

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