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Community Commissioning

Help design the successor to Mainstream Grants

The current Mainstream Grants programme, with a total grants value of over two million pounds per year, will end in March 2019. The Community Commissioning Programme is currently being designed and will succeed the current Mainstream Grants programme in April 2019.

The Community Commissioning programme will consist of a wide range of commissioned services focussed on local impact. the council intends to open services for tender in the summer of 2018. The council is co-designing the new Community Commissioning Programme in two phases.

1. Shaping the Framework

In January 2018, the council held a series of workshops with a wide range of VCS organisations and individuals attending, to establish:

  • the overall aims and emerging outcomes of the Community Commissioning Programme
  • the approach the programme should take to establish these aims
  • good practice to include in the Community Commissioning Programme design (and what to avoid)
  • the capacity building support that organisations might need in order to respond to tenders effectively.

Raw data (‘as written’ notes) from the first (16 January) and second (18 January) workshops are available to view. There is also a report from Carney Green detailing the full process of co-design from the workshops.

2. Detailed proposals

The second phase of design (March 2018 onward), looks at the detailed proposals for the Community Commissioning Programme. This phase of the programme development will include matching emerging themes from the first workshops to existing council priorities and creating the final programme.

The first workshop in this phase was held on 27 March and a further workshop will be held at 2-5pm on Monday 16 April 2018.

A capacity building programme, including a number of open workshops will be designed, to help organisations respond effectively to tenders. These will be offered from late April onward. 

Contact details

The development of the Community Commissioning Programme is being led by David Freeman. You can contact him with any questions or suggestions at david.freeman@towerhamlets.gov.uk or call 020 8364 6916.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are Mainstream Grants?

Mainstream Grants (MSG) are currently the council’s largest grants programme to the VCS. They cover a broad range of issues with a total grants value of just under £3 million per year.

Why are the Mainstream Grants Changing?

The Tower Hamlets Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) strategy outlined that the council are moving towards funding through commissioning rather than grants in most cases. The shift to a commissioned programme when the current Mainstream Grants programme ends in March 2019, is part of that commitment.

There will still be council grants in some specific circumstances (see the grants page for more information), these might include enabling smaller local groups to engage in grant applications through capacity building, responding better to local need and streamlining the current grants processes, in response to other changes outlined in the 2016-19 VCS strategy.

What does this mean for VCS organisations and groups?

The shift to commissioning services will mean that many organisations used to grants will need to be aware of what the changes mean for them. A capacity building programme will be carried out from April 2018 to help organisations respond to tenders for Community Commissioning Programme services in the summer. It will be important to know the governance and other requirements that come hand in hand with commissioning, as well as how to navigate the council’s tender portal, so we recommend that people attend the capacity building workshops.  

Other changes that should be good news for most, include some of the commitments to more streamlined monitoring and an outcomes focus within the programme. However this will also require a change in the way organisations may be used to evidencing their work. Commissioning also opens up a greater deal of competition and local knowledge and expertise will have to be evidenced. Therefore it is really important that organisations prepare for these changes in advance, to make the most of the opportunities offered by the change. 

What is the timeline for the changes?

The process of designing the Community Commissioning programme started in January 2018 and will finish in June 2018. Services will be tendered shortly after this for an April 2019 start.

Will my current Mainstream Grant be affected?

No - your current grant will continue as normal until the end of March 2019, when the current MSG programme finishes.

Is this about all commissioned services in Tower Hamlets?

No. The Community Commissioning Programme is just one commissioned programme. The approach and framework discussed here are particular to this programme.

Is funding going to continue?

The Community Commissioning programme reflects a continued commitment to funding a broad based programme of activities after Mainstream Grants end. The final budget is not decided, but it will depend on the balance between grants funded under the new council Grants Policy and the Community Commissioning programme. For example, it may be decided as a result of the workshops that some money in the current Mainstream Grants fund should remain grants in specific cases. The Tower Hamlets VCS Strategy outlines the argument for those situations (for example capacity building support, innovation, building an evidence base, etc.)

How can I get involved?

By getting involved you offer your experience and wisdom to ensure the new Community Commissioning Programme works for everyone in the borough. You can find out about how to get involved by emailing David Freeman at david.freeman@towerhamlets.gov.uk and asking to be added to the mailing list.