October 10, 2010; Source: ResPublica | On the heels of the recent reports by the Urban Institute and the National Council of Nonprofits on the problems of government contracting with nonprofits in this country comes a report from the U.K. which raises similar concerns about nonprofit contracting with government under Prime Minister David Cameron’s “Big Society.”

Cameron’s Society proposal calls for nonprofits to be more involved in the delivery of public services, but as Stephen Bubb, the chair of Social Investment Business, a group that cosponsored the report notes, “the current very expensive and bureaucratic process of tendering and commissioning government contracts presents real barriers to small charities, voluntary organisations and social enterprises.” The report’s author, Asheem Singh of ResPublica, says that the ability of nonprofits to take on more contracting is limited by the fact that “the sector is facing a financial crisis, because it is viewed by many commissioners as a ‘Cinderella’ service.”

ResPublica noted that a survey of “public sector suppliers” found the number “going bust” in the first six months of 2010 rose by 50 percent compared to only 5 percent for all corporate insolvencies during the same period, which, ResPublica says, gives one “a clear picture of the challenges facing the coalition Government.”

ResPublica’s report recommends the establishment of a network of localized co-commissioning consortia for service delivery, a minimum standards framework that gives autonomy to agency heads to manage and measure their own services, a local skills exchange for identifying local opportunities for service delivery groups, and “the creation of a Big Society Bank to act as a short term financier of social enterprises aimed at developing a stronger civil society.”—Rick Cohen