Help Design the Council's New Community Commissioning Programme - the Successor to Mainstream Grants
Tower Hamlets Council's Mainstream Grants (MSG), a programme of voluntary sector funding of about £3m per year, will come to an end on 31st March 2019. After this point, there will still be some council grant funding*, but it is unlikely to be anything like the MSG in terms of the overall funding available and the type of projects supported.
UPDATE -19 April 2018
The well attended Community Commissioning workshop on Monday 16 April, looked at the emerging shape of the new proposed Community Commissioning Programme. The programme will have a number of Cross-cutting Principles, which all commissioned services will be expected to evidence in tender bids, and during delivery of commissioned services.
The Cross-cutting Principles are split between overarching outcomes - 'Empowerment and Community Cohesion' and 'Reducing Poverty', and two Delivery Principles, 'Preventative Approaches' and 'Co-production'.
Sitting underneath these cross-cutting principles, there have been identified five overall Community Commissioning themes:
- Inclusion, Health, and Wellbeing
- Digital Inclusion
- Information, Advice, and Guidance
- Employment and Skills
- Community Safety
The second part of the workshop looked in more detail at the indicative outcomes and the related directorate. Participants were asked about their thoughts on the outcomes, and discussion around what might be missing from the draft plans.
UPDATE - 9th April 2018:
Community Commissioning Workshop - Detailed Proposals, Priorities, and Themes (Second Workshop)
Monday 16th April 2018at 2-5pm, at the Professional Development Centre, 229 Bethnal Green Road, E2 6AB.
Tower Hamlets Council is holding the next Community Commissioning Workshop
Tower Hamlets Council has been holding a series of open workshops, co-facilitated by Carney Green and the New Economics Foundation, to design the new Community Commissioning programme, that will succeed Mainstream Grants in April 2019. This workshop follows on from our workshop on the 27th March and will provide the main opportunity to determine the final detail of the programme.
Please register to confirm your attendance and find further workshop information on this page.
Further information on previous workshops can be found below.
You are also welcome to contact Elvis Langley on 020 7364 4150, or email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
The last Community Commissioning workshop, on the 27th March 2018, brought people together to discuss progress so far with the Community Commissioning process. The workshop sought to
- Clarifying evidence of need and stakeholders
- Identify priority outcomes for named stakeholders –informed by objective criteria
- Begin mapping outcomes for priority outcomes
You can find slides from this workshop here and further details for the next Community Commissioning workshop below.
While the last workshop reflected an open process, the next workshop in this series will move further into the detail of the information received by the council and determine the final shape of the programme. It is recommend that groups attendance this workshop, as the last workshop in this series. However, if you are unable to attend, we will be developing an online survey for input and you are also welcome to continue the dialogue directly with Elvis Langley on 020 7364 4150, or email email@example.com
UPDATE - 5th March 2018:
"Tower Hamlets Council is holding a short information and networking event about the Community Commissioning programme and other proposed changes to council funding for voluntary and community sector groups at 5pm on Monday the 12th March 2018 at the Reach Community Hub, 11 Oliphant Street, E14.
Please register to confirm your attendance here
Join Tower Hamlets Council staff and Mayor John Biggs, at this information and networking event to discuss:
- The end of the Mainstream Grants scheme (from April 2019) and design of the new Community Commissioning programme that will succeed it
- Changes to Council grants outlined in the new Council Grants Policy (from April 2019)
- Opportunities for the local organisations and community groups to influence the changes, and how to be prepared for them
- We will also discuss capacity building support around the changes being offered to the sector.
This event is being held at the mid-point of the co-design of the new Community Commissioning programme (which will be the main focus of the event). So far over 50 organisations have helped shape the overall approach for the process. The next stage is to design the programme detail, including themes and strands.
Tea/coffee and light refreshments will be offered. The Reach Community Hub is on the pedestrianised part of Oliphant Street, which is accessible via Woolmore Street, or Poplar High Street. Here it is on google maps.
The next Community Commissioning workshop will be held on the 27th March, more information here. Please expect more detail in the next few days.
If you wish to discuss this event, or anything connected to the Community Commissioning process, please call Elvis Langley on 020 7364 4150 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The successor to the MSG will be a programme of commissioned services, as laid out in the 2016-19 Voluntary and Community Sector Strategy. The new programme will be called Community Commissioning. Carney Green and NEF Consulting have been appointed to support Tower Hamlets Council to co-design the new programme with the Voluntary and Community Sector.
The Community Commissioning budget is not decided. The final amount will also depend on the balance of grants funded under the new Council Grants Policy (which THCVS has been working to develop) and Community Commissioning.
The Council intends to open services for tender in the summer of 2018. The new programme should start in April 2019.
The co-design process will have two phases:
1. The Framework
- Overall aims and emerging outcomes of the Community Commissioning Programme
- The approach the programme should take to establish these aims
- Good practice to include (and what to avoid)
- Capacity building support that organisations might need in order to respond to tenders
Around 50 VCS organisations and individuals (including THCVS) attended the sessions. Flip chart notes from the initial two workshops can be seen here and here. There is also a report from Carney Green detailing the full process so far.
According to the notes from the workshops, participants suggested that the programme should focus on:
- Preventative approaches - early intervention could apply to all areas of provision (for example, sports, criminal justice, arts) as well as provide sustainability and value for money
- Reducing Poverty – including employment and skils work, tackling in-work poverty and increasing prosperity
- Co-production - An overall focus on co-production with the community at service design and delivery level
- Empowerment and Community Cohesion – services should work toward cohesion and individual empowerment, including improved understanding and tolerance, active involvement in local communities, decreased isolation and the development of positive relationships
The feedback from the workshops was that these overarching principles should exist across all themes and strands developed for the programme, to develop a common commissioning approach that can be applied across different services, with different supplemental outcomes.
Following input at the workshops, the Council has suggested some sevice design principles for the new Community Commissioning Programme. These include:
- A supportive and collaborative approach to monitoring
- Streamlined application and monitoring, proportionate to the size of the contract
- A focus on outcomes, with flexibility in as to how outcomes are achieved. This should encourage innovation and creativity and value local solutions, knowledge and expertise.
- Valuing partnership work, but not requiring it
- A transparent tendering process that weights toward local knowledge and expertise, as well as other factors
- Reasonable timelines to respond to tenders
- Capacity building for the sector to be able to effectively respond to tenders
- A programme that works in synergy with existing commissioning and strategic priorities
- Co-designed commissioning outcomes where useful
- Building evidence for local need and the impact of the approaches developed - commissioned organisations will be expected to evidence the impact of their approaches to address an evidenced need in the borough
The suggested outcomes for the programme were broad ranging and require grouping into final themes and strands. Read the intial notes on outcomes here.
2. Detailed proposals
The next phase will be to look at the detailed proposals for the Community Commissioning Programme. This needs to take place after the current proposals are agreed by Tower Hamlets Cabinet on 20th March.
This phase of the programme development will include matching emerging themes from the first workshops to existing Council priorities and packaging these into different themes and strands.
A capacity building programme, including a number of open workshops will be designed, to help organisations respond effectively to tenders. These will be offered from April onward.
More information on workshop dates will be available soon.
What does the new programme mean for VCS organisations in Tower Hamlets
The shift to commissioning services will mean that organisations used to grants will need to adapt to the new bidding process. A capacity building programme will be carried out from April 2018 to help organisations respond to tenders for Community Commissioning Programme services in the summer. It will be important to know the governance and other requirements that come hand in hand with commissioning, as well as how to navigate the Council’s tender portal.
Other changes include some of the commitments to more streamlined monitoring and an outcomes focus within the programme. However this will also require a change in the way organisations may be used to evidencing their work. Commissioning also opens up a greater deal of competition and while the focus on local knowledge and reach will help organisations within the borough showcase their work, this will have to be evidenced.
The new contracts are due to start in a little over a year's time, so it's important that local organisations, paricularly those with less experience of commissioning, start preparing now.
Questions? Comments? Suggestions?
The development of the Community Commissioning Programme is being led by Elvis Langley at Tower Hamlets Council. If you have any questions, comments or concerns about the process or would like to pass on your ideas, please contact him Elvis.Langley@towerhamlets.gov.uk or call 020 8364 4150.
* THCVS is undertaking a separate piece of work about the new grants programme. We've set up a separate page on our site for this work.
All documents linked to in the text are also available to download below. We'll add more information as we receive it, and can keep you updated by email if you sign up to our 'Funding and Development' bulletin.