Cornwall Commissioning Academy

As part of our project looking at learning for commissioners, we held the first session of the six month Cornwall Commissioning Academy programme on Friday 10 June. More than 30 people attended, all involved with commissioning in public sector organisations, including the Council, NHS, DWP and police.

The academy is a national development programme, with a format developed by the Cabinet Office and run successfully for hundreds of public sector staff across the country.  It aims to improve the skills of senior public sector commissioners so their teams can better design service provision, influence external parties and shape and manage markets.

In Cornwall, our local outcomes are:

  • Market stewardship: cross-sector collaboration and agreement on how to engage markets to deliver across systems.

  • Devolution: 100-day ‘hacks’ are completed that explore the collaborative reform of public services.

  • Community resilience: individual and community resilience is enhanced, increasing community ownership and reducing demand.

The Commissioning Academy is sponsored by Trevor Doughty, Corporate Director for Education, Health and Social Care at Cornwall Council and Jackie Pendleton, Interim Managing Director at NHS Kernow. The TCA programme secured funding from the Cabinet Office and consultants RedQuadrant are facilitating the academy.

The focus for day one was on getting to know each other as a group, exploring what is meant by commissioning and explaining how the six-day workshop programme and 100-day ‘hacks’ are supposed to work. Benjamin Taylor, Managing Partner of Red Quadrant, who are now leading the national development of Commissioning Academies, explored concepts and models of commissioning with the group. Jacqui McKinlay from the Centre for Public Scrutiny discussed what good commissioning can look like, using examples from Staffordshire and beyond.

Every member of a Commissioning Academy is required to contribute to a 100-day exercise to change and improve local commissioning. In Cornwall we are calling these exercises ‘hacks’. The idea is simple: a small group exercise for around five to six people, starting now, which urgently addresses a key issue and makes tangible change. The outcome of these will be presented at the final session in November. There were 10 proposals from which four were chosen:

  1. Creative ways to increase the health and social care workforce, and work out how to retain them. How to develop and nurture expertise?

  2. Personalise budgeting for those with most complex needs. Links to ESIF, Together for Families etc.

  3. Active living - community engagement and co-production, pizza day, physical activity

  4. Map breadth of information and intelligence resources (including insight) and find new ways of joining these up and bringing them closer together. Develop commissioning principles by collecting the learning from this and the other hacks.

The next Commissioning Academy will be a site visit to Suffolk in July to look at a comparable rural area and how they are trying to meet their commissioning challenges.

So how are the VCSE involved? 

  • VCSE members of the TCA Programme Board sat as part of the formal Reference Group customising the content of the Academy to fit local circumstances, and learning from wider VCSE feedback to TCA about local commissioning fed into the programme design.

  • Cornwall is one of a number of Academies being supported by the Public Services Transformation Network. If you want to join the current commissioning academies discussion online then here is the link:

  • Day 3 of the Cornwall Academy in September is focused on working better with providers. Andrew Green, the elected voluntary sector representative on the TCA Programme Board, has been invited to be part of a panel of providers for this session.We will post further details about how you can feed into this session nearer the time.

  • We are considering whether to run a follow-on commissioning academy to start next spring (2017).We have not reached decisions about this yet, but one possibility is to offer a number of spaces to VCSE organisations with commissioning, service design or co-production experience.

If you would like to know more, please contact Mark Richardson on or 01872 322288.

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