Since the late 1990s, the term commissioning as a concept and practice has steadily gained ground in characterising the procurement, funding, design, delivery and evaluation of human services for individuals and communities.
In its ideal form, commissioning promises to deliver service redesign through a collaborative approach across government, service providers and communities that puts people at the heart of their care as active participants.
It has been framed as a panacea to address the complicated task of delivering services to meet citizen needs in today’s increasingly complex world. However, translating it into policy and embedding it into practice has proven to be a complicated task.
The process to date in New South Wales (NSW) has been challenging for the NSW Government and community sector peak organisations that represent community service providers across the state. Despite a shift in rhetoric, commissioning human services in NSW has largely mirrored New Public Management (NPM) style contracting and procurement, characterised by competitive and transactional ways of working.
This report seeks to reshape the understanding of commissioning, away from a search for policy blueprints to be transplanted from other places or experiments, towards a realisation that good commissioning is a way of working that sees government agencies, service providers and other stakeholders working together and requires a commitment to community involvement, flexibility, learning and relationships.
To move towards good commissioning, the research coins the tool of a commissioning jigsaw—six core questions that commissioners must engage with to shape any experiment. It also distils four fundamental principles which, when taken together, form a lens through which the government and community sector ought to approach the design of commissioning initiatives in NSW.