Shift or skid? What are commissioners doing?

Featured article - 14 June 2021
By Clive Miller and Richard Field, coaches and facilitators at the Public Service Transformation Academy

Strengths-based approaches

In 2018, when we penned ’Asset Based Commissioning – Better Outcomes and Better Value’, we were convinced that individuals could get closer to experiencing the lives they wished, in the sort of community they wished. A key factor to realising this is that individuals and communities understand the assets they control and are willing and able to use these effectively.

No way did we foresee the vast release of additional individual and community assets prompted by Covid 19. Progress that we thought might take ten years, happened in weeks. Covid has spurred individual and community self-help and the flexing of services to support what people were already doing to help themselves. No stats yet on the volume of self-help and volunteering, but in time we will understand this and the profile of ‘covid volunteers’; what they did, why, how many first-time volunteers etc. Where organisations were a galvanising force, we will understand the types and sizes, which pre-existed covid, which were quickly established, what worked and why.

The Public Service Transformation Academy has been focused on teaching the potential paradigm shifts in commissioning through the Cabinet Office Commissioning Academy

Volunteering may reduce during Waves 2 and 3 and beyond, due to perceived reduced need, state intervention, volunteers coming off furlough, and individuals being unable to sustain crisis level effort. This is all understandable but hopefully, levels of self-help and volunteering will still exceed pre-covid days.

The attitudes and actions of commissioners will have a significant impact. Some will seek to:

  • Build on the progress in self-help and volunteering made over the last eighteen months, supporting individuals and fledgling community organisations, in the process boosting asset based commissioning
  • Whilst others will try to reassert control and consistency, through imposing standard specifications, regulation, reporting requirements

Amongst the horrors of Covid-19 there been positives, more than just a vast increase in volunteering; we think there has been a shift in who was involved, who exercised leadership, the relationship between citizens, volunteers, and the state, how needs emerged and were prioritised.

Covid dividend

Handled well, a paradigm shift in self-care and volunteering will be a significant ‘Covid dividend’. Handled badly and what could have been a paradigm shift will be little more than a paradigm skid or swerve.

We want to understand what commissioners are doing as the UK progressively opens- up. Tell us what you are seeing; actions to support and develop or a focus on reasserting control and consistency?

And if you’d like to participate in the Public Service Transformation Academy’s open learning community, join us on 23 June for the days after: are we learning? Are we building back better?

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