Why the third sector should collaborate to secure public contracts

Scotland’s social enterprise sector is on the up. According to the 2017 Social Enterprise Census there are an estimated 5,600 social enterprises currently operating in Scotland, 8% higher since the first Social Enterprise Census in 2015. Social enterprises contribute £2 billion each year to the Scottish economy.

The reality on the ground, however, can be quite different. The majority of social enterprises (57%), operate with an annual income of £100,000 or less, and 51% of respondents to the Social Enterprise Census Survey highlighted insecure or declining grant funding as a key challenge going forward. The survey findings indicate that only 20% of social enterprises have bid for public contracts to expand their sources of income.

Within a challenging funding environment; the public sector in Scotland continues to spend more than £11 billion each year on purchasing a very wide range of goods and services. The Scottish Government recognises the considerable purchasing power of the country’s public sector and wishes to increase the number and range of social enterprises actively involved in shaping and delivering Scotland’s public services.

There is sometimes still the perception that only large organisations can bid for contracts with the public sector but this not necessarily the case. By forming a new partnership or consortium, groups of smaller organisations can bid and win contracts too, making it easier to compete for contracts rather than going it alone.

The benefits of partnership working and collaboration can include: delivering efficiencies or reducing costs through shared infrastructure; a stronger, united voice; improving co-ordination of services; and better outcomes for clients.

Partnership for Procurement (P4P) was established in May 2017 as a result of the Social Enterprise Strategy to provide a range of support, to all third sector organisations in Scotland, in the development of new partnerships and/or consortia as well as one-to-one support services on tendering for contracts (either individually or as a group).

P4P is a partnership between Senscot, Social Firms Scotland, Scottish Community Alliance, and Cooperative Development Scotland. Senscot leads the partnership and manages the P4P service.

The P4P website has a range of resources which you can access, including a 10 Stage Guide to Procurement, case studies, templates, details of upcoming tender opportunities, events, and the refreshed Ready for Business Third Sector Register.

P4P has also recently launched its Collaboration Toolkit and online survey. The toolkit is a comprehensive guide for organisations who are thinking about forming a new consortium. Organisations can use the guide to track their progress and as a checklist. It has been prepared with three phases that follow the typical lifecycle of a collaborative project. You can download the Collaboration Toolkit on the P4P resources page.

There are a number of good examples of successful, existing consortia in Scotland bidding for and winning contracts, including: CRNS Reuse Consortium, Scottish Communities for Health and Wellbeing, and the Fife Employability and Training Consortium.

Social enterprises and wider third sector can achieve much more by working together. If you would like to find out more about collaboration please visit the P4P website and download the Collaboration Toolkit guide. Alternatively, you can email info@p4p.org.uk or phone 0141 280 2560 to speak with a member of the P4P team.

Yvonne McBride is P4P Manager

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