Bold commissioning – a glimmer of hope

This week, a partnership of organisations including NCVO, has won a contract to deliver the Commissioning Academy. Cabinet Office has now outsourced the flagship Commissioning Academy programme, which has developed over 1,000 public service commissioners in its first three years.

Its aim is to inspire commissioners to be bolder, more creative and overcome barriers to designing and commissioning really good public services.

This is a fantastic opportunity for NCVO to give our members (as guest speakers at academy learning days) a platform to have mature dialogue with commissioners.

This dialogue could influence commissioners’ thinking on some key concerns, such as the application of social value in contracts, and the barriers preventing greater involvement of voluntary organisations in public services.

Some examples of innovative commissioning I’ve come across

Innovation partnership

Through our consultancy work, NCVO is currently advising a local authority that wishes to use a new mechanism called an innovation partnership. This provision enables a public body to appoint a partner organisation (usually a service provider) and work with them exclusively to design a new service or way of working.

This means they do not have to put a service out to tender on the open market. In this particular area, commissioners wish to engage with their local voluntary sector consortium, as the consortium brings the sector together in a coherent way and offers the commissioner a robust and ready-made supply chain of locally based organisations. Their senior commissioner said, ‘our intention is to ensure commissioning is done with social value at its heart’.

Supply chain development

A Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has also recently approached us for advice. They have a great local voluntary sector which they value, yet they see the operating environment changing – and are concerned that the sector still lacks a coherent ‘business’ infrastructure with which the CCG can co-design services, and from which the CCG can commission service delivery.

A senior manager, who is tasked with developing a highly innovative new model of prevention and care for older people, has secured funding to enable a change management process for their sector.

Provider development

A social care commissioner contacted us last week because they want development support for a local organisation that is delivering a well-regarded service in the local area.

However the organisation, whilst being good at service delivery, requires development in its ‘business’ and ‘commercial’ capability. What struck me was that rather than simply putting the service out to open tender, the commissioner wants to get the most from its existing service provider, and bring to bear their years of experience in this particular field of work.

Among the doom and gloom

These examples show that there are commissioners out there that are sceptical of the benefits of competition for competition’s sake, and are taking steps to protect their local assets.

One way or another, rather than seeing regulations as a barrier, they are using the regulations to innovate and work creatively with their provider market. This is very heartening.

Tell us your stories of good commissioning

Once the consulting projects described above go out into the public domain, we will disseminate as much information as we can, not least because we want commissioners and providers to replicate these good ideas.

If you have stories to tell of innovative and bold commissioning, please let me know by commenting below, or emailing me.

Find out more at our conference

There are still places left at the NCVO Annual Conference on Monday 18 April, which will bring together more than 400 charity leaders to look at some of the challenges that face the sector.

Look out for the PM6 afternoon workshop – How commissioners want to work with the sector. This workshop will bring together five bold commissioners from around the country to share their thoughts on innovation and how they wish to partner with the sector, to enable better design and delivery of public services.


For further information on Commissioning Academy and how to apply (commissioners), download the Commissioning Academy brochure, visit the Commissioning Academy website or call 020 3771 2608.


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Avatar photo Lev is an associate consultant to NCVO, and has specialist interest and knowledge in the role of the voluntary sector in public service transformation, partnerships and consortia, charity governance and leadership.

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