Chris Grayling recently announced that he plans to hand over the management of low-risk offenders who have completed their prison sentence from probation to the private and voluntary sectors. Mr Grayling is keen to establish a payment by results contract in the criminal justice sector so that the state only pays out for successful outcomes.
However, in all likelihood—especially given the example of the Work Programme, also managed by Grayling—most charities will not be able to access this new payment by results contract. It would be nice if the programme was designed so that smaller charities could get involved, but these charities must prepare themselves for the prospect that contracts will be too big for them to bid for by themselves.
Yet they need not feel disheartened. Next week, NPC and Impetus, the venture philanthropists, will be releasing a joint report on collaboration. During our research, many charities spoke of the excitement they felt when collaborating. Collaboration has helped them to scale up, allowing proven interventions to reach more people, and also to concentrate on their core skills, leading to an increased efficiency. Importantly, joining forces with other organisations has also enabled them to deliver services that better meet all of their clients’ needs. This is particularly the case for payment by results contracts, where charities work together to tackle the problem from different angles to ensure that the outcome is achieved.
As well as these stated benefits, charities agreed that collaboration often generates unexpected gains; including learning new things from partners, whether that be ways of negotiating with commissioners or methods of handling case work. Charities also said that they learnt the most from organisations that were least like them and advised others to be open to the idea of working with private companies.
Obviously you have to pick your opportunities with care—not every collaboration will be good for your organisation. And you can help your collaboration get off to a good start by doing what you can in advance to become collaboration ready. Choosing partners with care and becoming collaboration-ready are two things that our report explores in further detail. Collaborations are becoming more common in the charity sector, and if done well, NPC and Impetus believe that they can be greatly beneficial for the sector, allowing it to help more people and help people more.