10 Years of 3SC – looking back but also to the future!


3SC’s CEO Joanne Cholerton shares her views below ….


On July 23rd 2009 3SC was formed and over the past few weeks we have been holding 10th anniversary events with our partners in our offices across the country.


In that time 3SC’s vision hasn’t changed. It’s been a bumpy ride particularly over the years of government austerity, but we are still committed to ensuring that an ever-increasing share of public services are delivered by the third sector particularly championing micro, small and medium size social businesses to be part of our supply chains and who would otherwise not get a chance to compete for, and ultimately deliver these contracts.


This vision is easy to say and the rhetoric at risk of being grand but it has not been so easy to put into practice. Alongside the austerity and the issues that surround public procurement processes, the delivery of public services is a difficult and competitive marketplace, dominated by large commercial organisations. There is clearly a role for them and lots of examples of different sectors working together well, however, we continue to believe that the needs of people using person-centric public services – especially those who are hardest to reach – are best met by experienced, local, passionate and mission-driven organisations.


We have been pulling together all of our facts and figures to show the impact we have made with our delivery partners over the past 10 years helping young people achieve a better future, enabling those with health conditions and disabilities to participate fully in all aspects of society, delivering targeted programmes to support individuals facing many different kinds of barriers to find employment and supporting offenders to reduce their reoffending. I look forward to sharing these with you shortly in our 10 year impact report, but these include enabling the third sector to access over £76 million and the results of the mapping of our service delivery which is impressive showing our reach is far and wide across the UK. Every one of our delivery partners have had an impact in some way in reaching these achievements which translate into concrete outcomes for people who need our public services most.


Looking back on the past 10 years, there are core aspects of what we do that epitomises 3SC. We will continue to:


  • be creative in the way we deliver services, being innovative in building supply chains and harnessing the power of smaller third sector providers including micro organisations;


  • seek and celebrate diversity in our supply chains to ensure services have reach particularly where people might normally find them difficult to access;


  • deliver tangible change and be able to demonstrate that we are doing so operating beyond the silos of contracts or government policy and ensure that the work we do results in real change for people; and


  • collaborate, collaborate, collaborate. Collaboration is key to the way we operate and is the way in which we collectively strengthen what we and our partners can offer, optimising our delivery so that the supply chain working together achieves greater impact than its individual parts.


I was particularly pleased and proud that 3SC was in the Natwest SE100 this year which names the most impressive 100 social enterprises in the UK. The awards ceremony reminded us all of the innovative and fantastic work that our sector does on a daily basis and how good our sector is at supporting and transforming the lives of so many people when they most need it.


None of the above would have been achieved without 3SC’s staff. Their commitment to doing a great job enables 3SC to be successful in what we do and transforms the lives of so many people. They go the extra mile when they need to and I know I can rely on them to always get the job done, think about how they and 3SC can perform better and support the delivery of the delivery organisations they work with to perform better. This ultimately means better services and outcomes for the users of those services. I feel proud of each of every person that works for 3SC and the effort they put into their roles on a daily basis.


What about the next 10 years for 3SC? 3SC continues to go from strength to strength and as well as winning public sector contracts to be delivered by third sector organisations, we will introduce more services that improve social business and help them become more successful in winning and delivering public sector contracts either as an individual organisation or as part of a 3SC supply chain. These will complement our new 3SC membership scheme and other new offers we launched this year such as developing cost effective web portals that reduce the manpower required to manage and deliver contracts and ensure efficient, effective contract delivery.


We will continue the work we initiated last year with our events in the House of Commons and the Welsh Assembly to highlight what we believe are the problems with the current government procurement processes for third sector organisations. Based on the number of other campaigns and organisations who have picked up the same mantle this year we are clearly not alone in our thinking. We need to ensure that we are all working together to deliver a clear, consistent message to government and not diluting our message by acting in isolation.


I have been asked what I would like to see if I looked back at the public procurement landscape in 10 years time. I would like to think that 3SC’s vision (and that of many others) on the role of social value in any procurement activity comes to fruition and that social value will have become a core part of the government procurement process – no ifs or buts – a core part. I would like to see that the inclusion and robust assessment of social value becomes a mandatory requirement and standard commercial practice when any goods or services are being procured from start to finish in the commissioning cycle. This includes service design, the commercial procurement strategy, market engagement, specification, sourcing, contract management and review.


I would also like to see tenders that are not primarily awarded on price but on the outcomes they will achieve and yes these services may cost more initially but will deliver more robust, longer lasting outcomes in the longer term. We need more variety and diversity in delivery partnerships which will increase innovation and service excellence and really meet the needs of people where they can access them. This means that one size commissioning at scale does not and should not fit all and I would particularly like to see micro and smaller organisations getting a bigger share of the public procurement pie. I think all of the above is very achievable and hopefully won’t take 10 years!


3SC would not achieve anything without our delivery organisations who provide great services often in difficult conditions, of that there is no doubt. Our aim for the next 10 years is for us and our partners to never get complacent. We need to keep being innovative in our approach, integrated, collaborative, cutting across silos, and supporting diversity in our delivery as the public services we provide are not just ‘services’ but real differences being made to people’s lives on a daily basis.

We all know that the right public services delivered to the right people, at the right time in the right place deliver outcomes to communities and individuals that go way beyond traditional outputs. These include increases in self-esteem, self-confidence, better family and personal relationships and overall quality of life. This impact cannot be, and should not ever be, epitomised by a £ sign alone.


Joanne Cholerton, CEO, 3SC