Getting organised

Part of your planning and preparation is about getting organised and everyone has limited time and capacity so efficiency is vital. Being prepared and scheduling ahead reduces the strain and saves time in the long run. You could think about using some online planning and project management tools to help. Being prepared generally (and especially with partnerships) will put you in a more ‘commission ready’ state when the right contract comes up for you and your organisation.


Think internally about both strategic and practical issues

Strategically, you might want to focus on your unique offer, or what you think you can best deliver, whilst 'horizon scanning' for what is likely to be put out to tender.

Practically, make sure you have the internal planning in place and the workforce you need to deliver with the necessary managerial resource to oversee the process. The procurement process will require certain standard policies, and absolute rigour in financial management.

Getting to grips with commissioning might mean some internal changes. It is sometimes helpful to have a critical friend to support you when undergoing change and if there are people who you know have experience of commissioning their input might be useful. Use your networks to identify key individuals for advice including your Bridge organisation, and sign up for updates from organisations such as the National Council for Voluntary Organisations and Arts Development: UK who provide information and training opportunities.

Hope for appropriate timescales, but plan for tight turnarounds.

Ideally plenty of lead in time will be given and commissioners will establish details of the specification once they have started to talk to the market (including existing and potential providers). Being focused on local need, they should also know how the calendars of their local community affects demand and as they get to know the arts and cultural sectors more, they should recognise the importance of R&D and reflection time for the sector.

However all this might not be possible. It is important to do your best to know what is on the horizon through local communications and events and make sure you have the capacity for tight turnarounds – which could be anything from 4 – 12 weeks.