The public and private sectors can learn from each other

Stefano Jefferson, a senior consultant at Proxima, makes the case for a two-way learning process
Stefano Jefferson. Credit: Proxima

Too often in the media we read articles that proclaim the virtues of the private sector, calling on ministers or civil servants to replicate innovation seen in the private sector. Surprisingly for someone currently working in the private sector, I want to make a different argument – that instead learning is a two-way process.

I started my career working in the public sector – first at Caerphilly Borough Council and then at NHS Wales Shared Services Partnership, primarily working with Public Health Wales. I’m a procurement professional and in those roles I learnt an enormous amount about social value, rigorous governance and spend control procedures, which were best-in-class. This was done with a commitment to ensuring taxpayer’s money is spent wisely.

In the public sector I also saw the benefit of teams and organisations pulling towards a single common goal – serving the public. This isn’t to say private sector organisations don’t have this, but my experience is they often have a more diverse range of goals which can sometimes create challenges.

In the public sector I also saw the benefit of teams and organisations pulling towards a single common goal – serving the public.

The desire to see the difference between the public and private sectors is one of the primary reasons I decided to move into the private sector and join the procurement consultancy Proxima. This move has been a rocket booster to my personal development – while in the public sector I worked in fairly narrow category areas, at Proxima I’ve been able to work with a wide array of clients doing everything from contract negotiation, to developing and implementing service redesigns through to running accelerated savings programmes.

I’ve had the opportunity to work with some fantastic private sector clients including major retailers and leisure companies, getting exposure to diverse ways of thinking and operating. But importantly for me I’ve been able to continue working with the public sector. That means I’m able to continue using everything I’ve learnt in the public and private sectors to help deliver better public services at the best possible value for taxpayers.

Just over two years into my role at Proxima my main reflection is that closer working between the public and private sector can only be a good thing for both. Neither sector holds all the answers and there is both good and bad practice in both. Instead of championing the benefits of one over the other, we should be taking a balanced view and looking for ways to foster two-way collaboration between both – that ultimately will provide taxpayers better value for money, enhance social and environmental value and boost our economy.

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