Chief Executive's July Statement

Martyn Oliver

3SC was exactly five years old on 23 July 2014. Over that time 3SC has swayed with the ebb and flow of procurement and has steadily built a portfolio of programmes that, through our wonderful and growing number of consortia members, are making an impact on some of our biggest social problems. We have tried to influence the public procurement space so that commissioners, primes and policy makers are far more inclusive in their willingness to engage the expertise that is prevalent in our sector: I happen to believe that if commissioners want real social impact in their programmes then they must embrace the sector through their procurement processes somehow. I said at an event fairly recently that I detected a change in attitude toward the sector: it was as if these very powerful players in this market place were beginning to ‘get it’. One very strong piece of evidence for this is the MOJ commissioning 3SC, Social Enterprise UK and Social Firms UK to build a 1,000 strong force of social enterprises to be ready to engage in important social programmes across the public service space, not just in the justice field. From my perspective, though, the VCSE sector must also begin to change and be prepared to work hard to influence the way in which we can really open up these opportunities. By that I mean working with commissioners and the commercial primes to increase their awareness of what the sector can offer and on what terms. We have recently made substantial progress with one of the primes in enabling them to understand the impact of engaging with the sector and, very importantly, enabling them to understand what makes us tick. That has led to the appropriate placing of risk. In these contracts no-one can get everything they want – there just isn’t the cash and we have to accept that if we want to make progress. My frustration is the speed at which we can achieve change; government departments know and admit that they change slowly, but at some point policy has to deliver through commissioning because how else can it?

So what will I be writing about just after our tenth birthday? Well I hope that this melding of sectors I keep talking about will have happened, or at the very least be a lot more advanced. That will mean that we will have world-class commissioning that delivers policy, that the social change-makers (that’s you by the way) are enabled to bring their expertise to bear, and that all of the players in the space are appropriately placed in terms of resources and risks. That’s quite an agenda for us and the sector at large but one I think we can handle.