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Use open sourcing to pool expertise

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So far in my columns on partnerships, I’ve reflected on a Council’s role in the  prosperity agenda and the size of the client side in a modern council.

Having been interviewed on the BBC about the LGA press release on the 2020 timebomb for local government services it could be an easy article to write on how an intelligent client and successful private sector partnership can really help in this environment.

The easiest example from Northamptonshire CC in this context would have been our complete reversal of our road maintenance policy, away from national guidelines. This was our response to what was then the Northamptonshire public’s most pressing problem - potholes. I could have gone on to tell you how, with our partners MayGurneyWSP, we have now fixed seven times more road length; increased road surfacing by 46% cut temporary repairs from over 90% to under 10% and reduced insurance claims by 48%.

All for less money by rethinking the whole system and working in true symbiotic partnership way between public and private sectors, right down to having a completely shared capital delivery unit. But whilst this is a really innovative case study, I wanted to think about partnering with the world in the widest possible sense… or at least giving them the option!

So I turn to the concepts of Opensourcing, crowdsourcing and crowdfunding – all concepts we are now really and readily exploring in Northamptonshire. As with everything these concepts are not new - in fact their origins date back to the 1700s according to the literature. In modern times these methods have been particularly used in the domain of the IT, pharmaceutical and gaming industries, but are concepts starting to creep into the domain of public services across the globe.

At Northamptonshire we have prided ourselves in being amongst the leaders in the transparency agenda. This was an agenda which on the one hand was about democratic openness on where we spend tax payers money; whilst on the other hand  was about helping markets to develop as armchair analysts began to illustrate spending patterns in our sector  (see usaspending.gov if you want to see how it should be done!).

 But given the  size of the ask illustrated in the LGA’s publication this week on the  funding outlook for councils, quite frankly we cannot wait for the armchair analysts (particularly those that are impartial!) to do their bit and then all the market providers to respond to the analysis be they public, private, voluntary or social enterprise.

So our hypothesis at NCC is to open up the solution finding to  the global, local and employee innovators via the web. It is to promote concepts like crowd voting to ensure local buy-in by the people who really understand the local nuances on the ground, and then reward and implement the best solutions. How are we going to do this, well use sites such as InnoCentive, and why am I telling you, well because one of the golden rules of opensourcing is to  spread the word to like-minded individuals so we can get innovating… when our first challenge is published I will send the link.

Paul Blantern, chief executive, Northamptonshire CC

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