What’s different about commissioning?

Public service commissioning: a catalyst for change

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Commissioning requires a major shift in thinking about the role of the public service in delivery of government services. Scaling back the public service to doing what is core and capitalising on the strengths of private and non-government organisations is required to deliver services better and more cheaply.

A means to an end, not the end in itself

The use of commissioning for public services has emerged as a key mechanism to drive better value and outcomes for citizens, especially in the UK where it originated and has received bi-partisan political sponsorship and support from successive governments.

At its simplest, commissioning could be seen as the latest evolution in the journey to reform public service delivery, and a natural progression from the historical funding and procurement of public services. Applied systematically, its impact can be transformational and profound.

Commissioning of services and outcomes can and does happen at multiple levels, depending on the structure of governments and nature of the services themselves.

These levels can include:

  • National commissioning for an entire system such as immigration, tax collection or border protection
  • Regional commissioning which can extend from state based to locality based outcomes and services such as public transport, education or housing
  • Individual user or broker led commissioning by community groups, neighbourhoods or individual citizens for services such as in-home healthcare, disability or social services

The shift that is needed

Done well, commissioning stands to have a major impact on existing roles within a public service model.

This commissioning role needs to extend from the point of identifying and assessing citizen and community needs, to developing new service systems and markets, through the entire service delivery lifecycle to evaluating the value and outcomes being achieved, and working with service providers to find new and better business and service models.


  • Government choosing
  • Doer
  • Siloed
  • Contract managers
  • Program managers
  • Control
  • User choice and control
  • Enabler
  • Collaborative
  • Relationship managers
  • Outcome managers
  • Influence