Last year I had the pleasure of being part of a panel discussion on commissioning and the community sector that was hosted by the New South Wales Council of Social Service. The panel was convened to try and support those working within the community sector to gain a better understanding of the concept of commissioning and the evidence base behind this. Given the focus on commissioning and contestability developed by the NSW government, there are a number within the sector who are keen to better understand what the implications of these reforms are for their operation.
Where commissioning reforms have taken place in other jurisdictions we have seen some significant challenges posed for those in the community sector. A report from the UK House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee found that there was a lack of clarity over working definitions of the concept of commissioning and this posed challenges for community organisations, particularly those who work across multiple government agencies. The report set out a number of areas where improvements might be made in these processes. The Third Sector Research Centre at the University of Birmingham also developed a number of case studies exploring the challenges that community organisations have encountered in commissioning relationships with governments and where some of the gaps in the evidence base lie.
NCOSS have continued to do work on this topic to develop resources for community organisations and have developed a series of information sheets. There are three resources in total that explore commissioning, the government and community sector role in these processes and the potential impact within the context of government funded community services sector in NSW. These are short and very accessible documents that provide a really helpful and accessible introduction to the concept and its role in the policy context. The three documents are:
If you are a new-comer to the topic of commissioning, whether you work in the community sector or not, these are a really great introduction to the area and the evidence base.