OPM suggestions on how to build engagement into the commissioning process

October 18, 2012

OPM suggest ways to allow local people to get involved in the commissioning decisions rather than ‘fighting back’ once the deal is apparently done.


  1. Conducting widespread and detailed consultation and engagement at a sufficiently early stage to find out what users of the service in question think of it and how they feel it could be improved, using the findings from this to directly inform the performance criteria included in the specification against which providers are invited to bid.
  2. Treating the equalities impact assessment process – whereby likely impact on typically disenfranchised groups is systematically assessed and mitigated – as a genuine way of looking to improve the core service itself, rather than as a ‘tick box’ exercise. After all a very large proportion of service users will fall into one or more of the groups protected by equalities legislation.
  3. Including in the contract specification measures designed to get providers to spell out how they will involve service users on an ongoing basis, and meet the needs of people who are at risk of exclusion. As well as being a good thing in and of itself, this kind of approach to commissioning is likely to help authorities meet their statutory obligations under the Public Services (Social Value) Act.
  4. Involving service users directly in the bidding process. This is perfectly legal and completely practical. You might form a user steering group to act as a sounding board and source of oversight on an ongoing basis, or take the simple step of appointing a service user or someone from a user-led organization to sit on the panel that interviews shortlisted bidders.
  5. Taking a proactive approach to building the capacity of smaller providers (for example charities and SMEs) who may be closest to service users, but who may have less expertise and track record in bidding for large contracts. This might take the form of a suppliers forum with advice and guidance tailored to a range of likely providers, or one-to-one dialogue with organisations that have been identified as having the potential to really add value.

Full article is found on the OPM website at: http://www.opm.co.uk/user-voice-not-legal-challenge-how-to-build-engagement-into-the-commissioning-process/


Sustaining interest in Public Services by Design projects

October 12, 2012

As projects moved from ideas to delivery, it became clear that the high-ranking ‘officials’ who took part in the initial ideas workshops, and the partnership delivery was not sustained.  By the end of the project, the core group involved in delivery was limited to several (often more junior) council officers and a handful of committed community members.

Of this committed group of community leads, we could see clearly that the individuals that remained engaged in the process are those whose personal interest aligns strongly with the outcomes of the project (personal interest may mean the aims of their organisations or the benefit of their own neighbourhood).

This is of course completely understandable but should reaffirm to the council that, for those working in a voluntary capacity or as a community member, personal interest is paramount in determining the activities they will get involved in.  Projects that are community-led are more likely to lead to sustained engagement of the individuals.  Conversely, the council should expect gaps in community provision if interest doesn’t exist at grass roots level. In adopting this way of working, the council may need to acknowledge that facilities in some areas will look markedly different from others as a result.

The process we followed for Public Services by Design

October 12, 2012

The project was launched through a kick-off workshop. It was well-attended by the community partners and the council and 96 ideas were generated. It is unclear whether there was an expectation of an on-going commitment from the original group of attendees but on-going engagement has reduced to a core delivery group.  Some of this core group, have found the additional project work unmanageable within their resources and have identified the need for better understanding of expectations at the outset.

Veolia Environmental Trust funding

May 2, 2012

Veolia are encouraging applications to their environmental trust, which supports environmental and community projects by awarding grants through the Landfill Communities Fund.  Projects supported include improving community halls, creating new play areas and skate parks, and restoring green spaces.  There is also a fund for “creative, adventurous, exciting and ambitious ideas that will make a difference to people’s lives”.

Their website clearly explains the funding process and there is a phone number to ask questions. The next funding round requires submissions by 3 August 2012 with funds to be released by mid-Dec 2012.

Governance pack and insurance for community groups

March 16, 2012

My Community Starter is a free resource that has been developed by Zurich to help individuals and small groups get started on community activities. It aims to make volunteering more simple by providing information and guidance for individuals and groups who want to do more in the places where they live, for their own benefit and for those around them.


It includes guidance on legal, health and safety, planning and insurance together with handy information sheets which, together, create a free My Community Starter Pack adapted to the kind of activities the individual or group is considering.


The process may be a useful starting point to thinking about the regulations involved in delivering your community project and takes around 10 minutes to complete.  You can also purchase public liability insurance for your organisation from £75.



London Cycling Campaign

March 8, 2012

Local groups can bid to TfL for up to £5,000 to set up a cycling project. Projects funded in the past include bike recycling projects for young people, after-school cycling clubs, and cycle training for women.

The deadline to apply is Monday 19 March at 5pm.

More info can be found at http://lcc.org.uk/articles/london-cycling-campaign-and-mayor-of-london-join-forces-to-establish-community-cycling-projects

Capital Growth Special Grants – Reminder

March 7, 2012

Image Community groups have one week left to apply for a small grant of up to £300 to help them develop their community food-growing space. Applications are completed online and for further information and a link to start the application process please go to www.capitalgrowth.org/apply and follow the instructions.