Working to ensure bidding and commissioning practices are fair and inclusive.
Commissioning is a key issue for our members. Charities across the country are delivering vital public services for local authorities and national government, meeting complex needs and maintaining trust with communities. However, this is not without its challenges. Members report unfair and opaque commissioning that is focused on a race to the bottom line; problems with competitive procurement practices and larger, more generic contracts; and an environment in which all these problems have been compounded by over a decade of austerity.
We know that providing public services is tough for charities, both because of the external environment and because of a lack of trust and co-operation between organisations working within it. We want to see greater collaboration and a more positive working relationship between charities themselves, and between charities and local or national governments, so that high-quality services are accessible to all.
We want to see:
- A commissioning environment where organisations of all sizes and types, from across civil society, can play their part in getting the best services to communities and people.
- Commissioning decisions should be made in consultation with service users to empower them to choose the services that they want, and to provide a range of services to meet a range of needs.
- The commissioning process should allow sufficient time for collaborative submissions and relationship building.
- Social value should be properly considered through the Social Value Act, where the unique added value of organisations like charities which are established for public benefit is recognised.
- Charities working in this space should collaborate effectively to actively create an environment that ensures a range of good, trusted organisations can serve the communities they work with.
Rebalancing the relationship
In 2019 we launched a collaborative project between ACEVO, NCVO and Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales aiming to improve the frequency, effectiveness and spirit of partnership between charities in a highly challenging environment. Although we understand that the environment is challenging, this report focused on helping charities work more effectively with other organisations to deliver quality services.
The report’s key findings include:
- Commissioning and procurement practice: the commissioning environment itself causes challenges, driven by competition and large, more generic contracts
- Experiences of collaboration and competition: many charities reported negative experiences of collaboration with other charities, corroding trust and relationships. We also uncovered some bright sparks of collaboration
- Motivations and drivers for collaborating well
- Organisational culture and leadership: how leaders can drive a better culture to ensure a focus on mission and vision, not market share or income
- A framework for putting collaboration into practice.
ACEVO will continue to work with other sector partners to influence local and national government for changes to procurement and commissioning practices. We run events discussing collaboration and competition and our partners also regularly deliver surgeries and webinars on legal implications and agreements, approaches to mergers, and more. If you have any questions or suggestions about our commissioning and procurement work, please contact our policy officer Maisie Hulbert on Maisie.firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Guidance document for VCSEs looking to work with government
- Polly Neate comments on the role of larger charities in rebalancing the relationship
- Gillian Murray on collaboration as a force for good
- Laura Bunt on empowering people and communities
- Polly Neate on how the sector must collaborate now to avoid being left behind
- Information on the social value model