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research report

Key findings from the Commissioning Improvement Programme

June 2011

Institute for Voluntary Action Research


The Commissioning Improvement Programme (CIP) came to an end on 31 March 2011. CIP was delivered by IVAR as one strand of the National Programme for Third Sector Commissioning (NPTSC). The programme ran in 16 local authority areas across England between March 2010 and March 2011.   This report provides an overview of:  

  • the key conditions required for commissioning improvement;
  • the outcomes of the programme;
  • the future challenges and opportunities facing the public and voluntary sectors in relation to commissioning.

We reflect on some of the challenges and opportunities that will be significant to the future of commissioning and cross-sector relationships. These include:  

  • The actions that voluntary and public sector stakeholders need to take in order to engage with ‘new’ providers (for example mutuals or the private sector) and foster new partnerships/joint ventures
  • How voluntary sector providers might operate and behave in a new commissioning environment where some new commissioners, e.g. schools and GP consortia, have little knowledge or understanding of the voluntary sector
  • The steps and support required to move the commissioning cycle towards outcomes based commissioning
  • In the context of reduced funding for ‘capacity building’, how voluntary sector organisations should prepare for change and organise themselves to think and act more strategically in order to respond to future challenges and opportunities
  • The sharing of risk between commissioners.

The independent evaluation of the NPTSC concluded that ‘The programme contributed to culture change of individuals. Through the NPTSC, individuals have been supported to understand and deliver commissioning processes that adhere to the eight principles of commissioning. There is evidence that beneficiaries have learned from their involvement, which has led to improved practice. In most cases, this has occurred at an individual level rather than on an organisational level. However, the projects undertaken by IVAR and the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations, both of which were designed to deliver change to organisations, demonstrate evidence of organisational culture change. This suggests that intensive joint working contributes to successful, sustained culture change.’


(Key findings from the Commissioning Improvement Programme)


(NPTSC Impact evaluation)

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