Rebalancing the Relationship: participate in the call for evidence

Today we launch a call for evidence to better understand competition and collaboration between large and small voluntary organisations bidding to deliver public services. This call for evidence is part of ‘Rebalancing the Relationship’, a project delivered in partnership with ACEVO and Lloyds Bank Foundation to explore how to rebalance the relationship between large and small organisations.

Why are we doing this work?

The commissioning environment presents challenges for voluntary organisations of all sizes, but evidence suggests that smaller organisations have a particularly tough time. Due to commissioning and bidding practices, as well as the move towards fewer larger contracts, larger voluntary organisations are more likely to receive government funding.

While we continue to challenge the commissioning and procurement practices that disadvantage smaller organisations, we think there is a key piece of this jigsaw missing – namely the relationships between different service providers within the voluntary sector.

It is promising that we have seen leaders of larger organisations recognise the role they play in supporting the health and future of the wider voluntary sector. In a recent blog on the Tampon Tax Fund, Laura Seebohm, Executive Director of Changing Lives, said ‘we reflect on our relative power as a larger charity in the sector. We adopt an ethical business policy which aims to nurture partnerships in the sector, rather than undermine the work of local, specialist organisations. We encourage other larger charities to do the same.’

Last year Polly Neate, CEO of Shelter, challenged large organisations to ‘rewrite this story: to choose not to compete. To choose not to win, even though they can.’

We want a system that allows a range of voluntary organisations to deliver high-quality services, enabling the distinctiveness of large and small voluntary organisations to flourish and play their part. We urge a range of organisations to participate in this call for evidence to help us work towards this goal.

Have your say

The call for evidence will run until midday 24th July 2019, and you can participate by filling in this online form.

The purpose of the call for evidence is to get a broad understanding of how organisations experience and respond to the competitive environment. This exercise will ensure we build on existing thinking and evidence and will help us to understand where to focus the rest of the research activities.

We would like to hear from anyone that has experience of competition or collaboration between voluntary organisations bidding for public service contracts.

You might….

  • be a chief exec, trustee or project manager in a small organisation
  • have a role in a bid writing or business development team in a larger organisation
  • be a commissioner in a local authority or a clinical commissioning group working with the voluntary sector
  • be a thought leader, researcher or policymaker
  • have experience of using services, or representing service users at a local level

What next?

Alongside the call for evidence, we will be reviewing reports and research papers. A survey and qualitative interviews will follow the call for evidence to ask more focused questions and build a more detailed picture. In the Autumn we will run workshops with voluntary organisations to develop recommendations for the sector.

Please email if you have any questions, or require a word template for accessibility reasons.

For more information about the project, please see the project webpage. You can tweet about this project using #RebalancingTheRelationship @NCVO @ACEVO @LBFEW

Data statement

Please see our privacy policy to see how we store your data. Data shared with NCVO will be shared with ACEVO and Lloyds Bank Foundation where necessary for the running of this project. Any data we collect will only be kept for the life of the project. Please follow these links to access ACEVO and Lloyds Bank Foundation’s privacy policies.


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Rebecca Young is a senior policy officer at NCVO, working primarily on public services and volunteering policy. Before joining NCVO, Rebecca led on mental health, housing and disability policy at the National Union of Students.

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