Integrated commissioning for open public services: Building a better model for the delivery of social value through diverse networks of local providers

Stephen Duckworth, Alexis Sotiropoulos, June 2012

Executive Summary


Decentralisation has been identified as an important key to unlock more productive and responsive public services. The closer the services are to service users, the more accountable they are for addressing users’ diverse and individual needs. As such, increasing the impact of public services means devolving control and providing more choice.

There are a number of challenges in creating and maintaining local choice and responsiveness. It implies a diverse spread of local small and medium enterprises (SMEs), including many from the voluntary and community sector (VCS) and newly emerging mutuals. Paradoxically, large-scale and complex public service commissioning has required an increasingly centralised state, which lacks the exibility and sensitivity to manage local networks and often produces unintended consequences.

However, the emergence of the ‘integrator’ establishes a promising model to implement decentralisation – a prism refracting central direction into a diverse array of provision. An integrator is an organisation strategically deployed by the commissioner with specific responsibility for mapping and then assembling a network of local providers to achieve agreed outcomes. Historically both central and local governments have performed this role but with a poor return on investment.

The model has evolved further with the use of prime contractors to manage large, complex infrastructure projects through a blend of self-delivery and supply chain management. The separation of roles between the commissioner, prime and provider has created greater clarity in respective roles and responsibilities but has also resulted in some blurring in the lines of accountability. The translation of prime contractors into the social sector, such as large welfare to work contracts in the UK and US, has led to a further evolution in accountability as the role of the end-user has become a more important consideration in service design.

Download the full article
On the use of the integrator model to free up commissioners to focus on long-term strategic objectives instead of on the micro-management of a supply-chain of smaller providers.

Related articles

People Powered Public Services: Monitoring Australian Opinion

In our first quarterly report monitoring sentiment towards public services, we find Australians are overwhelmingly satisfied with their country's public services, but there exist disparities between the sentiments of different age groups and in the satisfaction levels of different regions with the handling of Covid-19.
14th October 2021

Competitive Tension: The Value of contestable public services in a post-pandemic world

In collaboration with Australian think tank the Menzies Research Centre, this case-study based paper argues that adding a ‘competitive edge’ to many areas of the public sector, services from public transport to healthcare can be markedly improved, productivity increased, and employment opportunities expanded.
12th October 2021

People Powered Public Services: Monitoring UK Opinion

In our first quarterly report monitoring sentiment towards public services, we find over twice as many Brits are satisfied with public services than not, but men are consistently happier than women and older generations are the most dissatisfied.
1st October 2021