Updated 14 March 2014

Updated participating organisations for Wave 2.
14 March 2014 5:16pm
Updated information about partners and application dates.
2 October 2013 9:54am
First published.
31 January 2013 10:08am


In order to transform public services in a climate of fewer resources and increasing demand, we need capable, confident and courageous people in the public sector who are responsible for designing and delivering services offering value for money. Whilst there are many examples of good practice, they are not well known enough, particularly to people working in other sectors. That’s why a Commissioning Academy is being set up.

The academy is being supported by the Cabinet Office, the Local Government Association, the Department for Communities and Local Government, the Ministry of Justice and the National Offender Management Service, the Department for Education, the Department of Health, the Department for Work and Pensions and the Home Office.

The Commissioning Academy is open for applications for future cohorts.

The academy brings together commissioners from different parts of the public sector to learn from the example of the most successful commissioning organisations. It will develop a cadre of professionals who are progressive in their outlook on how the public sector uses the resources available.

The programme aims to help commissioners deliver more efficient and effective public services. Success will mean commissioners embracing new and innovative forms of delivery, better outcomes for citizens and better value for money.

See what attendees think about the academy in this video.

Follow us on Twitter: @CommissioningAc

About the Commissioning Academy

The Commissioning Academy is a development programme for senior commissioners from all parts of the public sector. It is ‘virtual’, meaning there is no fixed location and the programme is run at venues across the UK. The programme consists of master classes, workshops, guest speakers, site visits and peer challenge.

The Commissioning Academy programme uses practical, peer-led learning, covering key commissioning issues such as:

  • outcome-based commissioning
  • whole-systems thinking, bringing all facets of public services together to tackle issues
  • working with the voluntary and community sector
  • behavioural insights
  • market engagement and development
  • alternative funding models, such as social impact bonds
  • joint commissioning across organisational boundaries
  • new models of delivery - such as mutual and joint venture companies

One of the outputs from the academy is for each participating organisation to implement a ‘100-day plan’, developed during the programme, to improve their organisation’s commissioning practice - improving outcomes and increasing value for money. They will also join the alumni network, gaining access to a supportive group of peers who can share experience and help each other deal with new challenges.

Following a recruitment campaign, the Commissioning Academy formally opened the campus gates for its first intake of commissioners on Friday 21 June 2013. Find out more.

What the programme provides

In the past, commissioning has tended to focus on inputs, processes and individual services. The academy adopts the new approach now developing to focus on outcomes and find the best way of developing those, looking at the whole system of services and available resources.

The programme consists of 8 development days, spread over 6 months, including site visits to commissioning organisations and in-depth discussion with a range of commissioners. It is not technical, but is designed to inspire participants and give them confidence to innovate. It will also provide useful contacts and knowledge. Through this, it will help to transform organisations’ commissioning practices and re-design how public services are delivered. The framework document for the academy provides more information about the challenge it is seeking to meet.

The academy aims to bring together commissioners from a variety of organisations, sectors and services areas as cohort groups.

Sectors include (but aren’t limited to):

  • central government (for example, the Work Programme)
  • local government
  • justice sector bodies (such as the Police and Crime Commissioners’ offices)
  • health bodies
  • ‘place-based’ groups (where local authorities, health bodies and others are working together in one area)

The programme is designed and delivered by the Cabinet Office and a mix of delivery partners providing specialist know-how and sector and commissioning expertise.

The Commissioning Academy brochure provides more details about the programme and what participants should expect to take away from the experience.

The pilot programme

Over 60 commissioners from all sectors helped to design the Commissioning Academy programme so that it will help them deliver better for less. The design was then further refined, with the active participation in 2 pilot cohorts of 47 senior commissioners from 17 organisations.

The first pilot ran from June to November 2012. The second ran from November 2012 to April 2013.

The feedback collected during the pilots and current programme is used to adjust the programme to meet the needs of future cohorts.

Costs and how to apply

Applicants should anticipate making a small contribution to the costs of the programme although the majority of the costs will be funded centrally through the Cabinet Office.

The main ‘cost’ to participants is the commitment of their time to attend all days of the programme in order to make a success of the opportunity for senior commissioners from all parts of government to work together in this way.

Apply to join the academy

You can now apply to join further cohorts that will be run during 2014 to 2015.

Senior commissioners from all parts of the public sector are invited to apply. Candidates should be at Assistant Director or Director level in local authorities, or SCS1 in central government departments, or the equivalent. It is recommended that 2 or 3 senior commissioners from an organisation apply together to join a cohort, to learn together and then work as a team to apply their new thinking to their organisation’s commissioning practice.

Candidate organisations should be leading innovation in commissioning services for the public by challenging existing delivery models. Each cohort will have a mix of different sector groups, covering cross-cutting themes.

The Cabinet Office, working with colleagues from across sectors, will design each of the cohorts using the information given on the application form in order to provide diversity within groups and maximise learning across sectors.

Results and impact

One of the outputs of the programme is for each participating organisation to implement a 100-day plan, developed during the programme, to improve commissioning practice.

All participants will also join an alumni network, giving them access to a supportive group of peers who will share experience and help each other deal with new challenges.

Although the pilots are still underway, the participants are already sharing commissioning models and methodologies. Organisations are identifying opportunities to work better across boundaries with peers in their cohort and proposals have been discussed for joining up between central and local government. The network of contacts is building and participants are using and adapting materials to share with colleagues and to develop their own staff.

Feedback from participants

Feedback already received from participants has included positive comments on:

  • the enthusiasm and honesty of the speakers
  • the wealth of experience, issues and challenges that those involved bring
  • the value of real-life examples and the chance to have more in-depth conversations with providers
  • the usefulness of seeing commissioning from the leadership, commissioner and provider perspective

Further support for commissioners

Commissioners increasingly work across traditional boundaries and may need access to information from sectors other than their own. The following sectors provide information for commissioning in their area.

The Cabinet Office

Start a public service mutual.

The local government sector

Knowledge Hub is the Local Government Association’s professional social network. It helps people in local government to connect and share online in a secure environment.

The justice sector

The Academy for Justice Commissioning identifies and promotes excellence in justice commissioning. By setting standards and raising commissioner capability, it supports the transformation of justice services to deliver best value, improve effectiveness and increase public confidence in the justice system. From Academy for Justice Commissioning you can access the A-Z of Commissioning, an online course to help all those involved in commissioning develop a shared understanding of what commissioning is and the essential components that make it work.

Useful guidance produced by the Academy for Justice Commissioning:

Participating organisations

Pilot 1:

  • Cheshire West and Chester (a place-based group)
  • National Offender Management Service / Ministry of Justice
  • Staffordshire County Council
  • Surrey County Council
  • Waverley Borough Council
  • Essex County Council
  • Cabinet Office
  • London Borough of Barnet

Pilot 2:

  • Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council
  • Bradford Metropolitan Borough Council
  • DWP, The Work Programme
  • Norfolk County Council and NHS Norfolk
  • Leicestershire County Council and NHS Leicestershire
  • Cabinet Office
  • Birmingham City Council
  • South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner’s Office
  • Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner’s Office

Wave 1:

  • Ashford (and area) Clinical Commissioning Groups
  • Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioners
  • Bristol Clinical Commissioning Group & Bristol City Council
  • Department for Communities and Local Government
  • Foreign and Commonwealth Office
  • Gloucestershire County Council
  • Home Office
  • Horsham District Council
  • Humberside Fire and Rescue
  • Lancashire County Council
  • Leicestershire Police and Crime Commissioners
  • London Borough of Haringey
  • London Borough of Lewisham
  • NHS England
  • Somerset County Council
  • Staffordshire County Council
  • Tri-borough councils: Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster
  • West Sussex County Council
  • Department for Work and Pensions

Wave 2:

  • Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner
  • Department for Communities and Local Government
  • Devon County Council
  • Fenland District Council
  • Gloucestershire County Council
  • Home Office
  • Knowsley Council (Health and Social Care Integration)
  • London Borough of Lambeth
  • London Borough of Sutton
  • Lowestoft Rising
  • Manchester City Council
  • Ministry of Defence healthcare
  • Norfolk County Council
  • Public Service Transformation Network
  • Sefton Metropolitan Borough Council
  • Shropshire
  • Somerset County Council
  • Staffordshire County Council
  • Stoke-On-Trent City Council
  • Coastal West Sussex, Horsham and Mid Sussex and Crawley CCGs
  • Swindon Borough Council
  • Tamworth Borough Council
  • West Sussex County Council
  • Westminster City Council on behalf of the Tri-borough Public Service Transformation agenda
  • Wirral Council
  • Department for Work and Pensions

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