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How to influence commissioning decisions (if you're a charity)

How charities can influence decisions about the commissioning of local public services. You can also find out more about how commissioning works.

1

Understand what you want to influence

Be really clear on what it is you want to change, and what the outcomes should be for your organisation and the communities you represent or those to whom you provide a service. Think SMART (specific, measurable, assignable, realistic, time-limited).

2

Get your facts right

There are several sources of data that you can use to back up your assertion that there is a need for your service. Our page on using data to support a commissioning case provides more information.

3

Work out if it is a wise investment of time and resources

In commercial terms, everything you do has a cost. Before embarking on a campaign to influence a commissioner, commissioning body or commissioning cycle, you should estimate who will be involved, and how much of their time it will take. Balance this against the proposed return and see if you think the investment is worthwhile in financial terms.

4

Work out whom you need to influence

It is important to know where the real decision-making power lies. A decision maker can be a person, organisation or a forum that holds the resources and authority – and in some cases responsibility – to agree and action priorities for the expenditure of resources. Commissioners are often decision makers, but they may also be influenced by others, such as elected councillors, an elected police and crime commissioner or a health and well-being board. Some of these influencers will have views that are politically driven.

Presenting credible evidence is important to open up dialogue with commissioners.

5

Work with others

As a sector, when we unite we can amplify the impact of the messages we communicate. This strategy is especially powerful if we are influencing the commissioning of services to address local provision, gaps in provision or the unmet needs of our beneficiaries. 

Make alliances with organisations that represent similar groups or interests, and find issues that you can work together on that will help all of you.

Building networks:

  • frees up capacity, as you can share – rather than duplicate – work
  • provides opportunities to share good practice and develop informal partnership working, such as cross-referrals or jointly producing client information
  • provides commissioners with an invaluable opportunity to talk to providers collectively rather than individually, which therefore lays a foundation for influencing commissioning.
6

Get your timing right

Get to know the commissioning cycle and influence at the correct time. If the ‘analysis’ phase is over, then there will be little scope to influence what is written into a tender or service specification.

Find out when contracts are due to be let or re-let in your area. There should be a local, publicly available register of contracts that are coming up for renewal.

Remember that once an invitation to tender (ITT) is out in the public domain, there are very strict rules about what commissioners can and cannot do. This is governed by law. Even if a commissioner wants to, they cannot talk to providers during a live procurement process, other than through a formal ‘question and answer’ process, whereby questions are published to all prospective providers, as are the commissioners’ answers.

7

Be confident and create an even playing field

Whether or not we agree with the ‘marketisation’ of public services, one important factor governing the market is that there is more of an equal relationship between buyer and supplier than there is between grant giver and grant receiver. As a supplier of a service, you have something that the buyer needs. Go into negotiations understanding that, in order to meet their targets or fulfil their statutory duties, a commissioner will need productive relationships with suppliers, and will need suppliers to commission services from.

8

Be on the radar

As a supplier of goods within the local provider marketplace, how will a commissioner know that you are a potential supplier? Or that you are delivering services in the local area?  Don’t assume that your work is known. Get on the commissioners’ radar, promote your service, promote the impact of the work you deliver and pro-actively seek to meet with commissioners to communicate your offer.

Further information

How commissioning works.

Contributors

Page last edited Apr 19, 2018 History

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