Commissioning and co-operative councils

MAKING SENSE OF COMMISSIONING

Of course, commissioning already makes perfect sense. But it’s not always easy to do well.

It makes sense because it offers-

  • better outcomes for people and communities by putting them at the centre of planning and decision-making;
  • better coordination or integration between public services, taking a “whole system” approach to see beyond the silo;
  • a single, shared view of customer/user circumstances, needs and assets, reducing overlap and inefficiency;
  • access to the widest range of options and assets (public, private and voluntary sector and the customers/users themselves) to achieve the desired outcomes;
  • a strategic framework for re-examining what we do and how we do it, posing fundamental questions about role, culture and purpose;
  • a practical and sustainable response to the twin problems of reducing budgets and increasing demand. We just cannot tackle the big socio-economic problems facing us in a single agency, single sector or single-silo way. Often, we even struggle to meet our statutory duties without finding partners and working collaboratively.

At the same time, there are many misconceptions about commissioning; on the one hand conflating it with procurement, and, on the other, creating an unhelpful mystique around commissioning. If you need to make sense of commissioning and how it can deliver real results for your organisation, we can help you. We specialise in building commissioning capacity and capability in public sector organisations, whether it’s working with you to develop and improve your commissioning strategy, approaches, practice, skills, structures, and tools and techniques, or helping to commission, re-commission, or de-commission a specific service. If you’re struggling to make real your strategic intent regarding commissioning, contact us to see how we can help you.

Nothing lends credibility quite as well as having been there and done it. Our core team possesses a unique combination of first-hand experience of successfully tackling on-the-ground commissioning challenges alongside thought leadership in commissioning, transformation and systems leadership. Karen is our lead consultant for commissioning and, as a former local authority director of commissioning, brings valuable practical experience of addressing similar challenges those you’re facing and a wealth of lessons learned the hard way. Team members have also provided strategic advice and support on commissioning to a range of organisations including Staffordshire County Council, Birmingham City Council, and London Borough of Richmond-upon-Thames. We estimate that our team has worked with more than 50% of all top-tier authorities in England on commissioning projects and can also bring UK-wide and international comparative expertise to bear having worked on commissioning projects in a number of other countries including Australia, Denmark and Scotland.

As part of a comprehensive review of commissioning for a local authority, Karen reviewed the existing arrangements for commissioning, including strategy, governance, methodologies, structures, skills and capabilities, in order to make recommendations for future arrangements and practical tools and processes.

For a client that wished to review the future options for commissioning residential and home care services, Karen carried out a review that entailed needs and asset analysis, research into best practice and benchmarking, market analysis, developing an outcomes framework, doing a gap analysis, and conducting an options appraisal in order to make recommendations on future commissioning strategy.

As a key delivery partner in the Commissioning Academy, we’ve organised and run elements of the central academy programme, delivered local academies as far afield as Cornwall, Manchester and Suffolk, and planned and delivered the Office for Civil Society pilot academy. The aim of this three day active learning model for the Cabinet Office was to improve participants' understanding of how civil society approaches can support better commissioning, whilst getting them to think about a real life local commissioning challenge - children and young people's mental health - in an open and exploratory way. We provide lead expert input to the central Commissioning Academy, where Benjamin Taylor provides the introductory day definition of commissioning, systems thinking, and systems leadership; and the National Commissioning Academy for Members, arranged for the LGA, where Benjamin again provides key input. Karen is providing expert commissioning input to a development programme being piloted by the Scottish Government with community planning partnerships, the purpose of which is to improve the joint strategic commissioning of children’s services.