Bridges Outcomes Partnerships (BOP) is a not-for-profit social enterprise. We work with Government, community groups and specialist partners to design and deliver vital services that support people to improve their lives, in areas ranging from housing and employment to education and wellbeing.
All of our projects are funded via ‘social outcomes contracts’ – which means the commissioner pays for the achievement of certain performance milestones, not for the delivery of a pre-specified service.
Commissioners include local authorities, clinical commissioning groups, central government departments, the National Lottery Community Fund, schools, philanthropists and local businesses. We think this change of focus has three important benefits.
First, moving away from rigid specifications allows for a more collaborative approach to service design. As well as drawing on local and central Government expertise, we involve specialist delivery organisations, community groups and participants in the design process – drawing on their front-line expertise to ensure the service is fit for purpose. And this process doesn’t stop when the project begins; we keep collecting their feedback throughout the delivery phase, so we can change the model accordingly.
Second, delivery organisations have much more flexibility in terms of how they deliver the contract, so they have more freedom to adapt and personalise their service. Increasingly, our partners are using this freedom this to focus on people’s strengths and potential, rather than simply addressing their immediate ‘needs’. We’ve found that doing this well – which means really getting to know the participants, instead of just delivering a ‘one size fits all’ service – tends to drive much better results for the individuals concerned. Read how this approach is helping people into housing and employment in Kirklees.
The third key benefit is that all the parties involved – commissioners, delivery partners, and BOP – have much clearer accountability: it’s very obvious whether or not a service has succeeded in tangibly improving people’s lives. This encourages shared responsibilities and collective problem-solving, to make sure the project delivers the best possible outcomes.
The role of BOP in this process spans project development (working with Government and others to design and launch the service), project management (coordinating the delivery phase and liaising with the various stakeholders) and project finance (funding the project until it starts to earn outcomes payments). Our own funding comes from a group of pioneering social investors, including The Office for Civil Society, Big Society Capital, Pilotlight, Trust for London, who, like us, are motivated by improving lives and changing the system for the better.
As a model for public service delivery, social outcomes contracts are still relatively new. But in our experience (we’ve now launched over 50 of these projects), they can offer tangible benefits. Commissioners get to tap into flexible, mission-aligned project finance and project management and delivery organisations have more freedom to deliver the service they want to deliver – which means participants get more targeted, personalised services that empower them to fulfil their potential. Over time, we think this will help Government not only achieve better social outcomes, but also better value for public money.