Building Contingent Capacity – A Nudge in the Right Direction

richard-field
By Richard Field, Visiting Fellow, Leadership Development

As a cohort leader for the Cabinet Office’s Commissioning Academy I was interested to read ‘Building Contingent Capacity1’, a report launched this week by Sukhvinder Kaur-Stubbs.

I firmly believe that commissioning for local authorities and CCGs needs to look very different from now. Already we can look back over the last 5 years and see progress towards what Tom Gash and colleagues at the Institute for Government refer to as Commissioning 2.02 which features personalised outcomes, shared resources and pooled budgets, collaborative commissioning, co-production and co-creation of value. For many however this is still a long way from current commissioning practice.

Paradigm Shift Required

This report is important in building sustained pressure towards a paradigm shift leading to better outcomes for individuals and communities. Thankfully we are close to losing aspects of the old paradigm where budgetary pressure has been met in part by claimed improvements in economy and efficiency without acknowledging the impact on service quality. Actually reductions in input cost and improved productivity often causes significant problems for example the erosion of user and citizen outcomes and over-working and under-maintaining assets, in particular staff.  In turn care quality, dignity, respect, safety are impacted.

Building Contingent Capacity will nudge thinking as part of a growing movement to take a wider and longer view of cost and value. This movement includes those promoting social value, social return on investment, impact assessment and co-production. all key to moving towards Commissioning 2.0.

 Three Ideas

Three ideas introduced in Building Contingent Capacity are important to me given my interest in commissioning outcomes rather than providing services

  • Creating ‘contingent capacity’, defined as being the ‘ability of organisations to be responsive to people, treat them with dignity and work with them to build a more inclusive and supportive environment’. With this comes value which accrues to organisations that are assured the best is being done with the resources available, for individuals who in addition to the ‘basic service’ get dignity, control and personal growth and for the wider community which will become more inclusive, cohesive and compassionate.
  • The pursuit of ‘outcome plus’ ensuring that we should seek to optimise value contrary to prevailing pressure to maximise productivity and minimise short-term cost. Outcome plus nudges us towards valuing a full set of outcomes.
  • The idea of reciprocal engagement which ranges from organisations that simply ‘provide services for people’ to those which ‘enable people to develop and deliver their own outcomes’. It should be noted that the shift in the quality of engagement is accompanied by a shift to focussing on outcomes rather than services.

Two Questions

I am left with two questions for the people with which I work.

  1. Where is your organisation with regard to contingent capacity and outcome plus- are you optimising value for your organisation, for individuals and the community?
  2. How reciprocal is your relationship with individuals and does it need to shift further towards enabling people to develop and deliver their own outcomes?

 References

1 Building Contingent Capacity, Sukhvinder Kaur-Stubbs, University of Birmingham, 2015 http://www.engage-us.net/about-us.html

2  Beyond Big Contracts, Commissioning Public Services for Better Outcomes, Dan Crowe, Tom Gash, Henry Kippin, Institute for Government, 2013

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