Community-led commissioning

Supported by:
Local Trust

NLGN is undertaking a research project which will set out how a new model of “community-led commissioning” would work in practice, supported by Local Trust.

What if people were given genuine power to decide how significant budgets are spent in their community? The current process by which services are designed and secured is professionalised, with commissioning at the core of local government practice. People might have a say through co-design, co-commissioning or consultation, but they are never fully in the driving seat over how money that is for them, is spent.

This project will set out how a new more radical model of “community-led commissioning” would work in practice. It will build on emerging evidence from different public service and democratic models that are led directly by people, and that have led to better outcomes for people themselves. This includes the Big Local model itself, funded by the Big Lottery Fund and managed by Local Trust, which hands over significant budgets of over £1 million directly to communities and lets them decide how they spend it. Previous NLGN research demonstrates how this changes the dynamic between the council and the community, empowering the latter in new ways.

In a context of rising demand and shrinking resources, the traditional structures of local government are under unprecedented levels of pressure. With the delivery of services becoming increasingly challenging in an ever-more complex environment, local authorities cannot sustain a model in which they “do to” people, rather they must find ways of working with people side by side. With or without austerity, traditional, hierarchical structures are increasingly unsuitable for new realities -particularly with citizen expectations for greater control over their lives having shifted in recent times.

With many discretionary services now being pared back, this research provides the opportunity to more fully assess how existing resource can be spent on the things that matter for people – and give them a greater role in defining this. There is a growing interest in how budgets could be allocated directly to communities more systematically across the local government sector and ambitious models such as community-led commissioning could re-cast the relationship between citizen and state.

We will explore how a model of community-led commissioning could work in practice and potentially be scaled up. How would it interact with existing, statutory services? How would the role of the local authority and wider public services need to shift? In pursuing these questions – the project will review existing empirical evidence and draw on primary qualitative research. The culmination of this research will result in a set of principles that could underpin a more ambitious approach to community-led commissioning, as well as identify the trade-offs involved in the adoption of any such new model.

This research will be published in Spring 2019.