At a recent meeting with VOSCUR and our community development team, I was able to set out a purpose and a number of principles I want to guide the way we approach the commissioning of services.
I want us to move to understand that we are not merely commissioning a service, but an intervention that will improve the way the city works.
Whether we are talking about a drugs or alcohol service, a mental health intervention or a youth service, the intervention we pay for does not sit, and cannot work effectively, in an abstract. Services like these sit in the middle of many other services and service providers and must join up. It’s not just the service we commission, but the way that service is delivered and the impact that has on other service deliverers in the city. Any organisation bidding for a contract in Bristol must show how it will work to join up with other services areas to ensure people, in particular the most vulnerable, are not falling through the gaps.
But there is something more. The city needs to be underpinned by an ecosystem of voluntary community sector and faith organisations. These are the physical and social spaces in which people come together in community and find the collective power to be able to shape their lives. In that sense, they don’t only provide a service but often an example of local leadership, pathways to employment and a trust and authenticity mere service providers and often times publically provided services simply cannot.
We have in the past seen situations where big outside service providers have won contracts on the basis of being able to meet a specific city need, but the decision to direct the city’s money to them has resulted in the loss of three of our local organisations. So while the contract may be met, the net impact on the city is negative. Not least because when we lose the local organisation, we also lose all its social capital with it. I think here of organisations such as the Southmead Development Trust, Nilaari, Wellspring Healthy Living Centre, The Park and the others who carry a reputation and trust that’s taken years to build up.
So we want to see evidence from those who want to work in our city that they will join up their services and invest in and strengthen the ecosystem of community voluntary and faith sector organisations. It’s in our communities we will find our city resilience.