In an insightful article written for a Human Learning Systems platform, Stone King Partner Julian Blake gives a legal perspective on the Human Learning Systems (HLS) approach to public management.

The HLS principles, which Julian describes as ‘good and right’, are an alternative way of leading, funding and managing all forms of social intervention and public service, compared with the more traditional ‘Markets, Managers and Metrics’ approach that focuses on the bottom line.

In a public services context, HLS principles seek to achieve better outcomes through the effective interaction and collaboration of people, organisational processes and structural forces, taking a ‘whole system’ approach.

In his article, Julian, who co-authored The Art of the Possible in Public Procurement, argues that the law is, despite entrenched approaches and views to the contrary, sufficiently permissive and facilitative to enable the HLS approach, as indeed it should be applied to support collaborative and innovative public service commissioning, but that the law is often misinterpreted and misapplied and ends up hindering innovative projects and partnerships.

Exploring what is needed to transform the status quo, Julian gives examples of pioneering projects that already exist, showing that the current legal and regulatory environment can support HLS and other purpose-driven principles. 

However, at a practical level it requires a shift in mindset by those responsible for legal advice and preparing the documentation for such re-orientated public service relationships. 

Julian says:

“Reaching for change does not come naturally to legal, procurement, treasury, decision-making officers or councillors, or, to be fair, most of us.”

So how can these concept shifts be brought about?  

Julian suggests:

“An important contribution can be made through being much more demanding of what legal interpretation, advice and support must offer. While equally true of other disciplines, I speak as a public benefit lawyer. The law does not preclude what is good and right. Lawyers just need more creativity and a healthy detachment from traditional, risk-averse, unhelpful, legal orthodoxy.”

To read the full article, please click here.

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