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December 19, 2012

How to negotiate a cluttered landscape

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Every so often the issue of the third sector being a ‘cluttered landscape’ surfaces –often with reference to the number of intermediaries and support agencies. Diversity can sometimes be a strength but, as Nicola Sturgeon hinted in her recent speech on welfare cuts, not always.  In England, there’s growing evidence of a trend towards mergers but for some reason not so in Scotland. Perhaps consortiums are the way ahead. 



Consortia are widely held to be a means through which voluntary sector organisations can deliver public
services. Consortia can offer increased scale at which to compete to win contracts and the ability to respond flexibly to changing resources and needs.  There is also a transformative potential in collaborative working to
mprove the quality and integration of services, and therefore service outcomes.
Yet there remain surprisingly few consortia in operation, despite the size of the voluntary sector (163,763 organisations in the UK according to the Civil Society Almanac 2012, NCVO). There is a lack of evidence of the   experience of these consortia, and also a wider need in the voluntary sector to better integrate and collaborate with one another. Both these factors hamper further development of formalised collaborative delivery of public services by the voluntary sector.

This paper explores some of the realities experienced by emerging and existing consortia. We draw on a roundtable discussion hosted by NCVO in June 2012 between government, voluntary sector consortia, and consortia development workers. We were joined latterly by Nick Hurd MP, Minister for Civil Society, who expressed a particular interest in the implications for the involvement of smaller organisations in public service delivery and what can be done to understand and overcome barriers to collaboration.

This paper’s structure reflects the key questions in the June roundtable:
. Consortia models in operation: where are we now?
. Do inherent issues within the voluntary sector make consortia unlikely mechanisms?
. Or are there barriers faced by consortia ones of legislation and the way public service
markets are structured and contracts let?
. Why is there so little commissioning of consortia?
. What recommended actions for policy makers, commissioners, and voluntary sector support

To see full report click here