The human, learning, systems approach to commissioning in complexity

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It is now widely accepted that the realm of public service is complex (Haynes 2003, Bovaird 2008, Rhodes 2008; Lowe and Wilson 2017). The complex nature of public service has a number of profound consequences which public servants must address in order to successfully navigate this realm. This chapter will argue that in order to meet these challenges, public servants need new, complexity-informed tools with which to manage the provision of public service.
This chapter will explore what is required of commissioners in order to achieve the task of creating positive social outcomes (such as improved wellbeing, increased employment or reduced crime) in complex environments. It will explore this question through the lens of Public Sector Performance Measurement and Management (PSPMM), and how this has evolved towards increased complexity by moving from an output (activity) to an outcome (results) focus. It will explore the different aspects of complexity that arise when seeking to commission activity which creates positive outcomes for citizens, and what a complexity-informed response requires. The chapter will then reflect on the way in which these requirements challenge existing public management arrangements, particularly in the field of PSPMM, as it applies to commissioning and performance management. Finally, the chapter will identify the emergent “Human, Learning, Systems” (Lowe and Plimmer 2019) approach to the funding, commissioning and management of public service and provide examples of this approach in action.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLocal Authorities and the Social Determinants of Health
EditorsAdrian Bonner
Place of PublicationBristol
PublisherPolicy Press
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9781447356264
ISBN (Print)9781447356240, 9781447356233
Publication statusPublished - 14 Oct 2020


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