A new report has just been published by the Sax Institute based on a piece of work that myself, Katie Moon and Karen Gardner. The NSW Department of Family and Community Services (FACS) commissioned this review to explore which approaches to outcomes-based commissioning have been effective in improving client outcomes in the human services sector. Stage One of this review found that very few studies actually explored the impact of commissioning on consumer outcomes. Stage 2 examined literature about when and how consumers have been involved in the various stages of the commissioning cycle, then searched for evidence within that literature about improvements to client outcomes.
Although many sources described the theoretical benefits of consumer engagement, little empirical data exists to demonstrate these outcomes in practice. Perceived benefits of consumer engagement fell into two categories: benefits for consumers participating in commissioning processes and improvements in services, including to environments (e.g. decor, food) and access. The review revealed no evidence of the effectiveness of outcomes-based commissioning in improving client outcomes. The most universal element of the reviewed literature was the description of the challenges of consumer engagement in commissioning and recommendations about how to undertake it effectively.
We conclude that, as both commissioning and consumer engagement are relatively new fields, there is an opportunity to grow the evidence base in coming years, especially if we can achieve consistency about how engagement and commissioning processes are described and measured.
You can download the full report you can find it here.