If the third sector is to realise its most effective contribution to public service delivery, then it is essential that front-line organisations develop relationships with their potential commissioners. These relationships must foster trust and understanding. This necessitates the need for that relationship to develop and deepen over time.
In their research on the commissioning of third sector organisations the IDEA1 found that 87% of commissioners agreed that third sector organisations understood users, particularly those from ‘hard to reach’ communities. Despite this only 21% of commissioners said that they always consulted the third sector at the early stages of the commissioning process, although a further 28% said they did so ‘often’ and 38% ‘sometimes’. Of those that were consulted, 59% of large third sector organisations said they had been involved in specific service consultations compared to only 26% of small third sector organisations.
There is clearly much work to be done to capitalise on the recognition of good practice and turn it into regular consultation, particularly where smaller groups are concerned. This is a key role infrastructure organisations can play; bringing together the front-line charities, community groups and social enterprises that make up the third sector with potential commissioners. As connections are made, infrastructure bodies can help sow the seeds for new opportunities and innovation in the public services that the groups they represent and work with can deliver.
Based on the experience of running a number of commissioner roundtable events with third sector organisations around the country ACEVO have produced a guidebook called Getting Round The Table, which is aimed at helping third sector organisations plan and prepare for effective meetings.
Download Getting Round The Table [PDF 1,032KB]
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