Responding to COVID-19: insight, support and guidance

A shifting landscape attitudes to social enterprise service delivery


CIPFA and E3M set out to ask if the media focus on significant outsourcing failures has changed public perceptions of service delivery and the respective roles of private sector businesses and social enterprises.








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For nearly 40 years, since the introduction of compulsory competitive tendering in 1980, public service delivery has used a mixed economy model. While early days were fractious, with public bodies tendering under duress, there has been a huge evolution and expansion of delivery vehicles and the model now supports some complex supply chains. UK governments of all political persuasions have adopted the philosophy of delivery by those best able to deliver, whether public, private or third sector.

Within the diverse ecology of service delivery, social enterprises have carved out a distinct niche. ‘Profit with a purpose’ organisations combine, for many, the best of all worlds. Entrepreneurial and innovative, they are driven by social values aligned to the public sector organisations with which they work. Profits or surpluses are reinvested into services or communities rather than paid out as dividends to shareholders. Social enterprises have an imperative to succeed as, like commercial businesses, failure brings consequences.