Why does Catch22 exist?
Every organisation needs an answer to this question. As Catch22’s Chief Executive, I sometimes envy the clarity of leaders who measure impact in customer sales. Those of us in public service – who receive public money – have a responsibility to improve lives, securing the best return on investment as possible. This is very hard to measure.
This means we need to think harder about what we do, how and why. Do we aim to grow, to do more and more? Or should we work towards the point of not existing at all?
Catch22 exists to help build a society where everyone has a good place to live, good people around them, and a fulfilling purpose. We call these our ‘3Ps’.
We achieve this in two ways. First, we improve lives on the frontline through delivery of public services. Secondly, we use our knowledge to change ‘the system’, to fix the complex web that can trap and disempower those it was set up to help. We deliver well to have more impact in the long term; not just changing lives day to day, but improving the overall system.
That’s our endgame: ‘right first time’ public services, created by and for empowered citizens, within healthy communities.
Fixing ‘The System’
At the moment our social welfare system is less than the sum of its considerable parts: the dedicated and able public servants within it. At worst it is creaking from ‘failure demand’, with the wrong resources in the wrong places.
Failure demand is demand caused by a failure to do something or do something right the first time.
Prisons are struggling to provide mental health treatment, schools are providing family welfare. Our acute – very expensive – services are under pressure because the ways we support people with chronic problems, or prevent problems in the first place, aren’t as effective as they should be.
We know that great public services are not the monopoly of Whitehall or City Hall. We also know that more money doesn’t always mean better outcomes. Public services must be well funded, but huge investment on more of the same did not succeed in reducing demand in the past. On the contrary it often increased it.
The best public services are the ones which ‘unlock capacity’, enabling individuals, organisations, communities and families to combine strengths and solve local problems. There are examples of exceptional results all over the country. We need to understand and to learn from them.
What is going well in the 25% of children’s services that aren’t rated inadequate? Which are the ‘outlier’ prisons that don’t have the same problems with violence or staff retention as others like them? How can GP practices, schools, and community groups be encouraged to pool budgets and achieve more?
Then we need to share this knowledge, creating transparent and accountable, self-improving public services which equip people to be confident and entrepreneurial. That’s how we will deliver our endgame.
I’m not claiming that Catch22 has all the answers, nor that any one person or organisation does. Through this playbook we hope to explain what we do, how we do it, and inspire others.
– Chris Wright, Catch22 Chief Executive Officer