Recognising the role of small charities in commissioning

kelly for blogEvery quarter, the Cabinet Office and Compact Voice hold a ‘cross department Compact meeting’. The most recent meeting sparked some new ideas and keen debate, which I hope will benefit partnerships between not only departments and the organisations they commission – but at a more local level too.

Compact Voice is in a unique position of having regionally-based staff who work to support partnership working locally.

Our Local Engagement Officers often work to support voluntary organisations to engage – and develop partnerships - with local commissioning bodies.

So being able to highlight issues around these partnerships directly to departments is valuable – as is being able to feed information back in one go to the departments that oversee the different local commissioning bodies (like Local Enterprise Partnerships, for example, who fall under the remit of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills).

In the most recent meeting, we undertook a practical exercise aimed at addressing a trend that the Compact Voice Local Engagement Officers have identified as happening across the country simultaneously.

This trend is that small organisations are struggling to engage with commissioning opportunities, and are often competing against large organisations (often very large national charities) to deliver services in the area they are in.

Small organisations are important as both shapers and deliverers of public services, and can potentially play a useful role across all stages of the commissioning cycle: from the planning stage, where they can draw on their expertise of working with diverse members of the community, through to monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of services.

These organisations often have a unique knowledge of what services need to be commissioned in their community, and often are able to directly access some of the most marginalised groups and individuals - which statutory bodies can often struggle to reach.

At the meeting, I opened with a short case study based on the observations outlined in one of our recent blogs – exploring the above issue and how it had impacted on communities in Peterborough.

I then asked attendees to think of different ways they could encourage commissioners to be inclusive of small organisations. Their responses were varied, insightful and sparked some healthy debate.

Some of their suggestions included:

  • Holding pre-procurement events to build the marketplace for smaller organisations - such as ‘meet the commissioner' days; 
  • Keeping bidding and reporting paperwork proportionate and not excessive;
  • Smaller contract sizes; 
  • Consortia building; 
  • Taking a 'whole place' or ‘local first’ approach to ensuring small, local organisations are able to bid for services

Other suggestions included a need to consider a variety of different ways of funding organisations, and a comment that small organisations must also make an effort to proactively engage with commissioners.

I’d be interested to know if the issues above reflect your local experience.

If you’re from a small voluntary organisation, are you having difficulty working with commissioners or accessing opportunities in your area? What are the barriers in your area?

We would be keen to hear from you – and can refer you to one of our local engagement officers to provide more in-depth support. Please drop us a line

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