Emerging characteristics of an Enabling State

Nat O'Connor11/07/2013

Nat O'Connor: Carnegie UK Trust have been organising a series of discussions around the UK, and one in Dublin, about their idea of the 'Enabling State'. The lead author, Sir John Elvidge, was the chief architect of a radically new model of the civil service operating under the devolved Scottish Government.

Carnegie are still continuing the conversation, but so far "six common characteristics that define an enabling approach to public services" have emerged.

• Services built around empowered citizens and communities;
• Co-produced public services;
• Nurturing community solutions where the state has failed;
• Services that seek to reduce not exacerbate inequalities;
• A holistic approach to public service delivery;
• Shared responsibilities in improving collective and individual wellbeing.

The report of their Dublin meeting can be accessed here. It is refreshing to see Ireland's problems looked at by a sympathetic NGO that is nonetheless more used to the UK context. For example, "There was no Beveridge Report in Ireland and as such Ireland’s health, welfare and social services provision developed in a piecemeal fashion". It is useful to remember the influence of visionary ideas, like Beveridge's post-war plans for National Insurance and the NHS.

See also Carnegie UK Trust's Enabling State webpage.

There is a risk that in Ireland we will fail to grasp the opportunity to imagine a very different state and a radically reformed politics. The Enabling State is one useful contribution to help us to promote public discussion of real reform.

Dr Nat O'Connor     @natpolicy

Nat O'Connor

Nat O’Connor is a member of the Institute for Research in Social Sciences (IRiSS) and a Lecturer of Public Policy and Public Management in the School of Criminology, Politics and Social Policy at Ulster University.

Previously Director of TASC, Nat also led the research team in Dublin’s Homeless Agency.

Nat holds a PhD in Political Science from Trinity College Dublin (2008) and an MA in Political Science and Social Policy form the University of Dundee (1998). Nat’s primary research interest is in how research-informed public policy can achieve social justice and human wellbeing. Nat’s work has focused on economic inequality, housing and homelessness, democratic accountability and public policy analysis. His PhD focused on public access to information as part of democratic policy making.


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