Privatization seems to be a controversial statement within itself as a word. Ask someone how they feel about it and you will probably hear the same results as I did. I recently spent some time with a few peers whose careers fall across sectors and include entrepreneurs, government, nonprofit and for profit employees. The interesting result was their responses to my questions equaled that of many I have read for several years.
The pros equate the cons.
The service delivery of a private social services entity is held to a higher standard of practice and many research projects prove this to be so. At the same time there are many examples of unfavorable or plainly poor services delivered by private contractors with political hands tied.
A private provider relieves a local government budget by taking over a specific service with successful results while another private provider puts more financial debt on a local government budget when they increase cost of services resulting in less financial return.
As I listened to each of my peers express their thoughts a common statement stood out “a privatized social service could go either way”. Finding an internal understanding of why this continues to happen across this sector has me perplexed. For the greater good, why shouldn’t we get this right!
I speak to organizations every day about the importance of performance based accountability and the one question I ask that always gets them thinking, “How do you truly know you are making a difference in the lives of the individuals you serve?” Their first response usually is “I see (visually) the results when I am working with my client/patient”. Without pause their next few responses include how they want to be able to prove their results by showing the outcomes (often longitudinal data) on clients served, and offer their stakeholders accountability of return on investment.
We should hold ourselves to this standard as we do in the consumer market. Think of it as commerce, a positive result equals a dollar amount in theory, driving our practice toward greater efficiencies which result in better service at lower cost.
During the ushering in of privatization an insight from Margaret Thatcher “the imperfections of State intervention in the economic field are likely to be not merely equal to, but greate than, the imperfections of the market. One is that, however genuine the desire of Government to arrive at an objective judgement, its decision will not only be subject to all the inherent uncertainties of economic life, they will also, inevitably, be politically skewed.” The New Conservatism
Commerce thrives from positive results, an unsatisfactory and inefficient private business must improve or they will inevitably parish but a government run entity face no such restraint.