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Open Forum with Bill Eggers: Discussing the opportunities and challenges of the solution economy

Author: Lisa Levesque

The Institute on Governance and Deloitte Canada hosted renowned public policy expert William D. Eggers, co-author of the recently released book The Solution Revolution, in an open forum moderated by CBC’s Jesse Hirsch to debate the future of public policy development and what he considers to be a shift in paradigm brought by the solution economy, an economy that brings together government, the private sector, and social enterprise to build creative solutions to some of the world’s toughest problems.

In The Solution Revolution, Eggers maintains that public and private are converging to form “the solution economy”. He argues that where tough societal problems persist, citizens, social enterprises, and businesses are relying less and less on government-only solutions. Instead, they are crowd funding, ride-sharing, and app- developing to fill the gap between government and public need. The opportunities for social good and commercial value that result from this “solution economy” are exponentially on the rise.

A lively crowd – mostly made up of public servants – discussed the potential and challenges of the solution economy, of how innovators can help close the widening gap between what governments can provide and what citizens need. One of the more interesting concepts discussed was around impact currencies – how traditional things like social outcomes, reputation and citizen capital and less traditional things like credits and data are being used more and more as a way to determine impact.

The Solution Economy Framework.

The Solution Economy Framework.

The group then split up into three to deepen the conversation on specific themes. The themes were “scalability”, “public value exchanges” and “commodities” – all part of the solution revolution framework. Eggers and Hirsch encouraged attendees to think about how to implement elements of the solution economy if they were Deputy Ministers.

 

The ideas elaborated in the book have merit and the crowd seemed to argue that the concepts, scaled up, would be more easily applicable at the municipal level, where government is considered closest to the people and where services to citizens are a bit more tangible. An example of this is the city of Boston, which employs the eyes and ears of thousands of citizens to enhance its awareness of public works problems that need attention. Another example discussed by Eggers as part of the solutions economy is ride-sharing. Ride-sharing is an example of a two-sided market, and while the public service might follow certain similar principles i.e. trying to serve two masters, citizens and higher ups, the need for regulation places the public service in a unique position that isn’t, at core, really all that similar to free and spurious internet sales of rides.

Some would say the approach proposed by Eggers and co-author Paul Macmillan comes from the world outside of government, where things are lean, agile and can change quickly. Whether governments can adapt quickly or not, Eggers and Macmillan’s argue the solution economy is here to stay.

 

This blog is available in English only.

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