The Evolution Of Exchange

How can organisations in different sectors make the most out of exchange?

Exchange is a fundamental part of successful business. Regardless of who or what is part of the process, exchange has evolved. As the value of data soars, organisations are now more interested in exchanging information. Instead of brief encounters, they seek sustained, mutually beneficial relationships. These connections often spring up between like-minded companies, but sometimes the most valuable insights come from bursting the corporate bubble. What can businesses learn from organisations outside of the private sector?

The relationship between public and private organisations

Public and private organisations have very different aims, objectives, expectations and functions. The public sector uses taxpayers’ money to create for the community, so it faces considerable public scrutiny. Rather than serving the whole community, private companies have a duty to their specific shareholders, investors, and customers. They must contend with changes in competition, economies, and markets, but are less affected by politics. Because of their reliance on policy, public organisations are hindered by bureaucracy and struggle to be as creative and agile as private companies.

Despite these differences, each sector has a lot to offer the other. This is partly evidenced by public-private partnerships (PPPs). PPPs have their routes in private finance initiatives (PFIs), in which private firms complete and manage public projects. In the UK, PPPs have delivered £56bn of investment in over 700 infrastructure projects including new schools, hospitals, roads and housing.

Aside from formal contracts, public sector organisations can work with companies like FutureGov to benefit from private business expertise. Since 2008, FutureGov has helped the likes of City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council, Essex County Council, and Homes England through workshops, restructuring, digital standards advice, and by sourcing new talent.

Much like public sector organisations, big businesses also operate on legacy infrastructures, face heavy regulations, and hold lots of data. Regardless of size, all organisations must meet the expectations of stakeholders, and deliver on their aims and objectives. Other common challenges arise from navigating the digital world. The more data organisations have, the harder it is to organise and protect it. Cybersecurity, for example, is just as important for a big government department as it is for a high street bank.

Exchange for social good

It’s often said that the public sector should look to the private sector for inspiration and innovation. The ability to experiment, fail, and move fast means that businesses are best placed to overcome digital hurdles. Exchange, though, is a two way street. Many of the concerns that are traditionally associated with public bodies and even charities are now boardroom considerations. It’s never been more important for businesses to make a positive contribution to community development, environmental protection, and social good. Not only their image, but their longevity as a business, depends on it. 

“We are waking up to the fact that charities in the third sector cannot and should not be there to pick up the slack for the public sector, or fix the problems caused by the private sector. We all need to be working together to make sure that we are tackling the root causes of the big issues in our society,” says Bryony Wilde, Social Impact Manager at cross sector consultancy The Panoply.

Wilde will take part in a panel session at Disruption Summit Europe to discuss The Future of ‘For Good’, and the ways in which sectors can learn from each other to support positive change.

The willingness of private sector businesses to deliver social good is shown by the popularity of social enterprises, which now make up three per cent of the UK’s GDP and bring a combined £8.4bn to the economy. Taking a community focused approach to business makes companies more endearing and, in the long run, more profitable.

“Whether you’re in business or in government, social enterprise is becoming a far more important part of our economy. We can’t rely on the government to do everything. If businesses can do good at the same time, then it’s a no brainer,” says Cemal Ezel, founder of Change Please, a social enterprise that employs homeless people as coffee baristas.

Putting people over profit

The concerns faced by businesses are increasingly interwoven with those of public bodies, particularly in terms of positive social and environmental impact. Working with organisations from the public sector can deliver all-important insights that might otherwise be overlooked.

In return, public organisations (and also charities) can benefit from the digital expertise of private companies. A government department, for example, could learn how disruptive technology like AI or blockchain might be used to streamline application processes and make information more accessible for citizens and civil servants. Aside from digital transformation, businesses can provide vital industry experience to shape public projects, either through bodies of exchange set up by groups like The Ellen MacArthur Foundation or through PPPs and partnerships.

With so many complex considerations to make, businesses, government departments and NGOs need to engage in meaningful exchange. They can achieve this through strategic partnerships, collaborative projects, or by joining established frameworks. Building relationships in which exchange can take place is easier said than done, especially when parties come from different sectors with contrasting priorities. But, by focusing on their similarities, cross sector exchange will bring new perspectives and solutions to increasingly common challenges.

To find out more, book your ticket for Disruption Summit Europe on the 10th of September.