A proposed approach to highly productive and sustainable public services for the 21st century
The core of this research project is a framework for dynamic organisation of knowledge and collaboration.
The framework highlights the possibility of re-organising our highly complex public services (or all of the different activities that make up ‘the common good’) into a much more productive network of knowledge domains.
I have called this ‘the Kractal Framework’ (derived from Knowledge + Fractal) because my research is finding that knowledge domains seem to be self-similar at different scales and between different bounded scopes (eg. ‘homelessness in Sydney’ or ‘living with early dementia in the UK’).
Using the Kractal Framework, my research is re-imagining the concept of the common good as a collaborative environment based on a public digital infrastructure which enables the orchestration of multiple independent agents to self-organise into a network of regulated domain eco-systems which continuously optimise towards higher productivity.
In order to develop and explain this approach, my research is operating at three levels:
Developing the vision – we cannot move to a future state which has much higher productivity and sustainability of public services if we cannot imagine and describe such a state. In this section of my research, I am developing the conceptual framework and the articulation of the future state in enough detail to stimulate discussion and critical analysis.
Designing the platform – the Kractal Framework conceptualises a collaborative environment powered by a public digital infrastructure at the core of managing the common good. The design of this collaborative environment requires the definition of design parameters gleaned from the vision above, a conceptual engineering architecture which can define the various components needed regardless of specific technology choices and actual systems engineering architecture specifications to guide prototype development of component instances. These architectural specifications cover both the ‘back-end’ environment (how the platform actually operates to facilitate the orchestration of domain eco-systems) and the ‘front-end’ environment (how humans interact with the platform to carry out their domain roles ie. the user experience).
Implementing the platform – to enable a gradual and safe transition to digital age management of the common good, I am putting forward an adaptive approach to implementation through prototyping, applied testing via pilot trials and iterative development.
Developing the vision
Can we imagine a future state where the problem of public service sustainability has been successfully tackled?
What would this future state look like?
How have we solved the challenges?
At this stage I am continuing to research and develop the articulation of this future state. The idea is to describe a conceptual way that public services (in fact the common good as a whole) could operate in the future, enabling a much higher degree of productivity and inclusiveness, achieving measurability and visibility of the changing state of productivity and progress towards self-sufficiency (and therefore sustainability) in each thematic domain.
A summary of the key thinking (but not finalised conclusions) are highlighted below. As my research develops I will be publishing more detailed discussion documents on these points:
- Future state models put forward by leading thinkers across all thematic domains have certain common features which inform the overall design for future, sustainable public services.
- Each thematic domain that constitutes part of the common good within a jurisdiction can be accurately conceptualised as a collaboration involving demand-side and supply-side, publicly- and privately-funded participants and stakeholders (both in citizen roles and organised group/corporate roles) with a need to efficiently and effectively match demand with scarce supply.
- Every publicly-funded program or project is also a collaboration involving publicly- and privately-funded participants and stakeholders that should operate in conjunction with activities across the whole-of-thematic-domain in that jurisdiction and should be designed, tested and measured against whole-of-thematic-domain outcome objectives.
- A new type of public institution is needed which is not a direct participant in service supply but rather a domain orchestrator, ensuring that whole-of-thematic-domains are operating efficiently, effectively, in the public interest and with minimum direct public funding…in fact the ‘right’ level of public funding needed at that time to shift the domain towards self-sufficiency (and therefore lowering the need for public funding over time unless new factors emerge).
- To enable each thematic domain to operate efficiently and effectively, and therefore the common good as a whole to operate efficiently and effectively, a new systems platform is needed, operating as a public digital infrastructure to support contextual visibility and collaboration between participants. The Kractal framework represents the conceptual design of this platform.
- Publicly-funded policy development and service delivery teams should be re-organised to become a pool of agile units operating in domain-specific contexts in collaboration with other participants and/or competing against other participants for efficiency, effectiveness and outcome contribution.
In ‘Developing the vision’, my aim is to imagine and describe this future state both at the macro whole-of-jurisdiction level and also within key thematic domains, such as health, education, justice and so on.
The future vision is deliberately ‘over the horizon’ and is not concerned with the method of adaption from the existing industrial age environment we are operating in. Instead I am looking to articulate a future vision which can stand up to critical intellectual scrutiny and act as a guide for designing prototypes and pilot trials.
Designing the platform
As part of this research, I have designed an overall framework, which:
- breaks down the common good into a network of related domains
- identifies a common, underlying pattern of knowledge organisation – both for explicit knowledge and for enabling tacit knowledge exchange – which can be used for every domain regardless of topic or scope
- enables visibility of the status and trends towards self-sufficiency for each domain
- proposes a crowd-sourcing approach to knowledge, participant and linkage acquisition
- provides a conceptual basis for orchestrating human collaboration needed to manage the common good at the level of efficiency and effectiveness needed for sustainability into the future
The Kractal Framework is currently being presented and discussed with various research institutes and interested parties around the world.
My experience to date is that it is best described in an interactive, workshop-style setting, so at this time I am not attempting to describe the Framework in this blog. However, I am aiming to develop improved ways to explain and present the framework online, possibly using diagrams and audio/video media as well as explanatory text, so watch this space.
If you are interested in hosting an interactive workshop to explain and discuss the framework, please contact me via this form.
Implementing the platform
This part of my research focusses on an adaption methodology for transitioning from our current state (where productivity in specific thematic domains is not sufficient for sustainability) to a future state where the management of the common good is sufficiently productive and the state of each knowledge domain can be dynamically visualised to allow public policy to adapt in a more timely, efficient and effective way.
My approach is to use prototyping, applied testing via pilot trials and iterative development methodologies to develop and test the public digital infrastructure envisaged by the Kractal Framework.
As the framework and the adaption methods develop, I will be publishing results of the test and pilot trials for open assessment.
Please contact me if you are interested in taking part in the development of framework prototypes or trial projects.