Commissioning and procurement: step by step
What is commissioning and procurement?
Commissioning is the process of finding out about public needs, then designing and putting in place services that address those needs. In this context, it's a process undertaken by public bodies, like central government department or local NHS bodies. It's a decision making process that most frequently involves the procurement (purchasing) of services by either grant-funding or competitive tendering for contracts (a process of which voluntary and community organisations are frequently a part).
Commissioning is carried out by local and national government and public bodies (like local councils or hospitals) who have a statutory responsibility to commission services to meet needs. Commissioning has grown in significance as more and more public services are delivered by external organisations (like the VCS) and as social needs change.
Commissioning and procurement can seem overwhelmingly complicated at first. This section aims to take out the element of fear, and give you confidence and knowledge to become involved in public service commissioning and delivery.
Find out about how commissioning works, procurement process and who commissions.
Intelligent commissioning - find out about:
Read our detailed step by step guides through the commissioning and procurement cycle:
1. Needs analysis
- How to analyse and address needs takes you to our impact section of the website
2. Market development
3. Procurement and contracting
- From grants to contracts: what it means for you
- Procurement law, principles and policy
- Procurement methods
- Contract notices: Finding invitations to tender
- View free website listing contracts for VCOs on Funding Central website
- Are you ready to bid for a contract?
- Responding to invitations to tender
- Consortia and mergers
- Understanding your costs
- TUPE: Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations
Contract award and challenge
- Contract award process and criteria
- Contract and payment terms
- How to challenge a procurement decision
4. Service delivery, contract management and payment
- Contracts key issues
- Contract management and negotiation
- Subcontracts and supply chains
- Payment by Results
- Excellent examples of service delivery
- Boilerplate Contract Clauses - common clauses in a public contract explained
5. Evaluation and decommissioning
- Evaluation and monitoring
- Measuring impact - takes you to our impact section of the website
- Measuring and commissioning outcomes and social value
Specialist commissioning policy and practice
See also our resources updating you on the latest thinking
- Download our introductory guide Before Signing on the Dotted Line (PDF 450KB)
- Read about the history of the voluntary sector in public service delivery
- Want to know more try our recommended reading list
- Stuck on a term? Try our Public Service Delivery glossary
iKnowHow commissioning and procurement
Share your experiences and insight on everything about commissioning and procurement on KnowHow NonProfit's wiki. You can edit existing content, add new information or create your own new guides of case studies, how-to or FAQs or just read through all the guides.
NCVO Commissioning diagram (Powerpoint 1.2MB) - to download. You're welcome to use it.
NCVO Procurement diagram (Powerpoint) - to download. You're welcome to use it.
State and the Voluntary Sector (NCVO Research report) Really excellent statistics and graphs outlining the history and relationship.
Voluntary Action: meeting the challenges of the 21st century (PDF 3.61MB) In depth analysis and comment by leading thinkers, commissioned by NCVO.
Rhetoric Into Reality (PDF 434kb) discusses how the public sector can engage with the voluntary and community sector to transform public services
From Policy to Practice: How is the environment enabling you to deliver or commission public services? (PDF 355KB) an aide memoir for those who attended the Public Service Delivery Network Annual Conference 2007 and as a rich summary for those unable to attend
Transfer or transformation? is published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and contains two papers reviewing the political and practical impact of expanding the role of the voluntary and community sectors in delivering public services.
Public Services and the Third Sector: Rhetoric and Reality. (PDF 327KB) House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee, 2008.
Working with the Third Sector. (pdf 1MB) National Audit Office, 2005.
Independent Review of Public Sector Efficiency: releasing resources to the front line. Sir Peter Gershon OBE, July 2004.
Commissioning: policy and practice
Before Signing on the Dotted Line is NCVO's easy to read expert guide to commissioning.
Download Before Signing on the Dotted Line (PDF 450KB)
Third Sector Commissioning guide - A check list to intelligent commissioning and intelligent bidding
Jointly published by NCVO and Voluntary Norfolk, this publication acts as a checklist to intelligent commissioning and intelligent bidding, and as a framework for good practice in commissioning from across the spectrum of providers.
See the Public Service Delivery Network case studies for more examples.
Commissioning Support Programme (PDF 1.39MB) (OPM, October 2011). In depth report summarising a three year project by OPM into improving the commissioning of Children's Services. Funded by DfE and DH.
At Your Bidding guide to commissioning for trustees. NAVCA, 2011.
Early Intervention: Smart Investment, Massive Savings HM Government, July 2011. Independent report on the value and financial mechanisms for delivering early interventions in welfare services. Led by Graham Allen MP, reporting to the Prime Minister.
DCLG's Creating Strong, Safe and Prosperous Communities: Statutory Guidance (July 2008) puts the onus on service commissioners to make complex and multi-faceted purchasing decisions.
The National Audit Office has published a guide called Successful Commissioning: How to secure value for money through better financial relationships with third sector organisations. This practical guide focuses on how commissioners and the third sector can deliver services and outcomes that represent good value for money. The guide is supported by several Government Departments, the Commission for the Compact, the LGA, NCVO, and the NHS Confederation.
No excuses. Embrace partnership now. Step towards change! (PDF 211KB) Report of the Thid Sector Commissioning Task Force in the Department of Health, 2006.
Procurement and Contracts: policy and practice
Pathways Through the Maze 2nd Edition – the acclaimed - and only - guide on EU procurement regulations and the voluntary sector. Written by Anthony Collins Solicitors, and published by NCVO and NAVCA. Available to download.
Before Signing On The Dotted Line: all you need to know about procuring public sector contracts. A guide to enable small and medium sized organisations to navigate the complex rules, procedures and practices that constitute the public sector procurement process.
Introductory Pack on Funding and Finance: Guide to Procurement and Contracting (PDF 715kb) written by the NCVO finance hub, 2006.
TUPE Factsheet Revised 2012 (PDF, 236Kb)
See the Public Service Delivery Network case studies for more examples.
The Gershon review of public sector efficiency (July 2004) placed an emphasis on collaborative purchasing; one result of which is that contracts are becoming larger.
Evaluation of the Local Government Procurement Agenda (August 2005) Report based on four year evaluation of Local Authority procurement, and policy impact on procurement. Useful to understand levels of quality and processes in procurement.
Improving financial relationships with the third sector: Guidance to funders and purchasers by HM Treasury, May 2006.
Think Smart, Think Voluntary Sector: good practice guidance on procurement of services from the voluntary and community sector (PDF 194KB) June 2004, published by the Office for Government Commerce.
Procurement and Partnership: doing it right. NLGN, 2004. Intelligent comments and explanation of the role of procurement in local authorities. Includes discussion of: the councillors' role; district councils; procurement in partnership. £20.
*Please note this costs £95 The CJC Guide to Buying from the Third Sector (2006). CIPFA produced guidance on relationships, contract and procurement legalities and directives and market management and commissioning practice. (Please note that some of legislative references will no longer be valid).
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