As part of its Big Society initiative, and linked to Prime Minister Cameron’s desire to make the public service more efficient and entrepreneurial, the concept of “mutuals” was put forward as a viable alternative to traditional government-owned public agencies. Under this model, public servants are being encouraged to form mutuals that would compete for government business.
According to a report published by ASTD (American Society for Training & Development), the U.K. government “hopes that by 2015, one in six public servants (about 1 million staff) will form themselves into a mutual or social enterprise.”
While there is some evidence of the socio-economic benefits of mutuals, the transition from government ownership to new modes of service delivery is not going to be without challenges for public sector management. Chief among these is the need to recalibrate the skills and capabilities of the workforce in order to nurture a new culture of entrepreneurialism.
To this end, the ASTD report suggests that business partnerships and mentorship programs can be helpful, along with the development of in-house recruitment and training programs with the aim of fostering a new generation business-savvy leaders who are committed to social and public entrepreneurship.
Given the similarities between the political structures of Canada and the U.K., a closer examination of how the U.K. mutuals work may be in order. What lessons can we learn from our U.K. counterparts?