Governments today are underutilizing existing public-sector talent that could help them make the transition to “public entrepreneurs.” Making this shift can help governments drive much-needed sustainable job creation and long-term growth in the current tough economic environment. Public entrepreneurs focus on creating value, forging new relationships, collaborating across traditional boundaries and breaking through organizational silos to get things done. They partner to deliver value and take calculated risks, understanding that while some efforts may fail, others will not.
The shift to public entrepreneurship repurposes the machinery of government to stimulate economic outcomes, collaborate and multiply the impact of government investments.
Beyond needed policy and legislation changes that should, for example, emphasize such areas as education and workforce development, the shift to public entrepreneurship requires governments to do three things.
Collaborate to boost impact
Public entrepreneurs have a number of options for building collaborative partnerships that can multiply the impact of initiatives. Using new delivery and organizational models can drive innovation and stimulate better economic outcomes; these efforts often involve spinning entities out of the public sector.
For example, in the United Kingdom, one healthcare center that converted to an employee-owned mutual organization in 2008 reported productivity gains of 20 percent in 2009; the quality of clinical outcomes improved or was sustained as well. The greater autonomy enjoyed by employees under the mutual model drove these productivity improvements.
Some countries are creating public/private collaborations that harness technologies to drive both economic and social outcome improvements. One example is a major redevelopment effort in Guadalajara, Mexico. With significant private-sector involvement, Mexican central, state and local governments are recasting the city center as a hub for the digital media industry with a goal of providing employment for 30,000 people while building an environmentally sustainable creative culture that can provide a better quality of life for the local population.
Develop labor pool skills
Public entrepreneurs can attempt to help businesses flourish, but if a nation’s workforce lacks the skills to compete globally, the efforts are unlikely to succeed. Given the complexity inherent in the skills development challenge, coordination among the public, private and social sectors1 is critical.
However, a recent Accenture survey of European decision makers found that although organizations from all three sectors believe that such collaboration is essential, less than 20 percent are working together on skills issues with players in the other sectors. Public entrepreneurs can address this shortcoming by building coalitions and partnerships between businesses, public agencies and not-for-profit players to provide the labor skills needed for the future.
Accenture’s own Skills to Succeed initiative provides an example of this approach. By the end of fiscal 2011, the initiative had equipped more than 160,000 people worldwide—two-thirds of the way to the goal of training a quarter of a million people—with the workplace and entrepreneurial skills they need to get a job or build a business. Partners in the Skills to Succeed initiative include the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Junior Achievement, Plan, Save the Children and Youth Business International.
Introduce intelligent stewardship
Governments have many ways to capitalize more fully on the resources they manage. They can, for example, use their sizable procurement budgets to catalyze innovation. Near Dublin, the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council invited teams of academics and businesses to bid for a low-energy street-lighting contract. The winning bid involved a new kind of streetlight that reduced running costs and associated carbon footprint levels by 33 percent.
Governments can also make better use of the data they collect. For example, “data mashing” enables agencies to merge public information with different types of data to produce new products and services that they then can sell. In Denmark, Geomatic, a private company, uses government data to develop market insights that they sell to clients for marketing and strategy development purposes.
Another opportunity: using technology to simplify interactions between business and government. One leading example is Norway’s Altinn portal, which provides a single connecting platform to cover a whole range of government agencies. Through Altinn, small and medium-size enterprises can obtain information and submit applications without having to contend with multiple authorities at different administrative levels. Between 2008 and 2026, the government expects Altinn to save Norwegian businesses approximately $1.6 billion through data handling cost savings and the more efficient use of time.