What can be done? A new model of public service commissioning is evolving across England that may hold the key.
The word ‘crisis’ has become commonplace in local government over the last five years. Reeling from cuts of up to 30%, councils are faced with the seemingly impossible task of stretching dwindling funds ever further. But new strategies are out there. By embracing the skills, time and energy of those who know most about public services – the people who use them – and switching focus towards identifying and achieving the long-term outcomes that really matter, councils are breathing new life into the services they commission.
This handbook and practical guide is the result of eight years of collaboration between the New Economics Foundation (NEF) and local authorities. It sets out a model for designing, commissioning and delivering services so that they:
Our approach recognises and addresses what commissioners perceive as the most common shortcomings of ‘conventional commissioning’ practices. It shows how a focus on the ‘triple bottom line’ (social, environmental and economic impacts) and on co-production can enable commissioners to get real value for money, achieve well-being and prevent harm. It has already been applied to commissioning across in-house, grant-funded and external providers.
We set out the ideas and practice of commissioning for outcomes, co-production and social value – illustrating these with examples, case studies, practical tips and methods that we have used with local authorities to put this approach into place. The model follows a three-phase commissioning cycle – from developing insight, to planning support and activities, and then supporting and monitoring the delivery of these. Each phase includes many activities that are already part of most councils’ commissioning processes, but these have been adapted to support and promote the key ideas at the heart of NEF’s approach. For example, we show how local authorities can:
Support and activities to meet the needs and build on the assets of local people, including:
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