If you’re Serious about Community Engagement, think about Single Sourced Frameworks

During 2016-17 local authorities spent nearly £4.5 bn on highways and transport services. Now that level of public spending ought to generate considerable levels of community engagement and social benefit. But does it?
Much of the budget will be spent with contractors who have a genuine CSR commitment to delivering community engagement. Yet you could easily argue that impact achieved doesn’t reflect the size of the budget.

Why not?

First of all, community engagement has a bigger impact when it is provided through a long term well-co-ordinated programme, tied closely to the specific needs of an area.
One of the many advantages of a single sourced framework agreement is that it provides continuity over the longer term. This is a better basis for delivering sustainable community engagement. With more continuity, programmes to help long term unemployed and disadvantaged or underrepresented groups to access employment opportunities can be better targeted and have more lasting impact.

Building relationships with local organisations, understanding local community plans and aligning activity with those plans takes time. Setting up high quality training and support programmes for the long term unemployed can’t happen overnight. And building a local SME supply chain makes more sense for both parties when they know their services will be needed in the longer term.

Clearly, there are incentives for contractors to invest in a community that will provide some of the future workforce. But often it’s more to do with practicalities than incentives. Organisations  like ours want and expect to deliver community benefits through every publicly funded project we deliver. With longer term frameworks we can progressively build a better support and engagement infrastructure and sink roots deeper into the community.

Consequently, the engagement activities we support will better reflect local needs and have greater long term impact:
• Employment support can reach the right people, be linked to real opportunities and reflect the actual needs of the local community and disadvantaged groups.
• More effective links can be nurtured with JobCentre Plus and support agencies.
• Work experience and tasters can involve projects in the communities where people live.
• School and college STEM activities can be designed around the local context and become more meaningful.

Ultimately, single sourced framework agreements are about sustainable partnerships, not just between customer and contractor, but with the communities where the services are delivered.