Keep it Locality: new case studies in local-focussed commissioning
Now that we’re all on the same page regarding whose fault it is that everyone thought public tender was the prescribed default for service commissioning (hint: not the EU’s fault after all!), perhaps you’re thinking you need some case studies to help you think through ways to keep services focussed on the communities they’re supposed to serve. If so, you’re in luck — those lovely people at Locality have just released a new report with the Ronseal-esque title Keep It Local, which provides exactly that. Actually it’s less a report, and more of a website subsection with nice big fonts and clear navigation — because who needs yet another PDF in their download folder that they can’t read on the train, eh?
In his introduction, Locality head of policy and public affairs Ed Wallis raises the spectre of big-ticket large-scale outsourcing and notes that:
… while this may have provided councils with some immediate budgetary relief, it’s really been the opposite of what we need. It has doubled down on a transactional, market-driven mindset, which sees people as passive recipients of services rather than partners in care. As Locality’s groundbreaking report “Saving Money By Doing the Right Thing” highlighted back in 2014, too many public service systems “assess rather than understand; transact rather than build relationships; refer on rather than take responsibility; prescribe packages of activity rather than take the time to understand what improves a life”.
Ultimately, we’ve been throwing fuel on the fire of the complex demand challenge facing our public services, rather than stamping it out at source.
So what’s the alternative, Ed?
The complex, long-term nature of our big social problems means they can’t be solved by top-down plans or simple market incentives. Instead, they require deep and lasting relationships to be forged, with power widely dispersed and services joined-up around the distinct needs of every person.
Local areas have experts in exactly this on their own doorsteps: their local community organisations and small charities. These organisations are locally rooted and trusted, and there for the long term. They have strong existing relationships with local people, especially with those whom public services traditionally struggle to connect with. They are multi-purpose organisations that can respond flexibly and provide services which are tailored to the individual.
Bureaucratic commissioning processes and big contracts have been preventing these organisations from participating in local services. The Keep it Local approach turns this on its head, with the starting point being how to build a partnership that unlocks this “power of community”.
Now, it wouldn’t be a public service sector publication without a list of principles, and Locality don’t disappoint with these six headline points, each with an essay and a case study attached (for which we’ve provided direct click-through links, because we’re nice that way):
- Think about the whole system not individual service silos. [essay] [case-study]
- Co-ordinate services at the neighbourhood level. [essay] [case-study]
- Increase local spend to invest in the local economy. [essay] [case-study]
- Focus on early intervention now to save costs tomorrow. [essay] [case-study]
- Commit to your community and proactively support local organisations. [essay] [case-study]
- Commission services simply and collaboratively so they are ‘local by default’. [essay] [case-study]
You’d be forgiven for thinking they sound familiar — we must have blogged half a dozen variations of these points in the last year alone. But as Wallis notes in his intro, it’s a matter of the right answers surfacing at the right time: everyone involved in the front-line of service provision knows everything’s broken, and everyone knows what needs to be done. What’s needed is the courage to turn the ship, and some inspirational examples. The Keep It Local report can provide the latter, so get reading.
You’ll need to supply your own courage, though.