An interview with Joanne Cholerton, CEO
The heart of 3SC’s work is building third sector consortia – like-minded organisations operating together to get and deliver on contracts from the public sector. This is no mere business – it’s a business that has the vision of creating a greater amount of social impact. Since it started life in 2009 3SC has a proven track record in doing this, using its “expertise in creating and managing supply chains of third sector organisations to deliver effective, high quality services that provide results and value for money,” says Joanne Cholerton, its CEO. It’s established an enviable track record, in creating systems that make for greater efficiency in supply chain management.
Joanne has been with 3SC since early 2015. She says that “we’ve become a lot more structured and have put a lot of systems and processes in place to streamline the business. Transformation is never as quick as you want it to be but we have now arrived at the point where the various processes are now working as they should – efficiently and effectively.” When people ask, why use 3SC? Joanne’s response is clear and precise: “We believe that local, passionate, mission-driven organisations are the best for getting results for local communities.” And this emphasis on the local determining better outcomes for local communities certainly works – 3SC has proved that in the various sectors it has so far worked in, such as justice, employment, and disability.
The benefits of working with 3SC are many, argues Joanne. “We provide a gateway to the diverse expertise of the third sector for commissioners and operate a rigorous due diligence process, so that we only work with those organisations who we know can deliver the right outcomes in the right way. Some smaller organisations may need additional support to be a part of our consortia but we offer them that support and more. We have quality assurance systems, to ensure the provision of excellent services, help organisations to solve problems that occur in delivering a contract, and have robust performance management systems making sure that accountability at all levels is at the heart of all we do. Perhaps above all, we make sure that local communities, and those who commission contracts, get the best possible outcomes,” says Joanne.
Since the introduction of the Social Value Act which calls for all public sector commissioners to “have regard to” the economic, social and environmental wellbeing factors in their commissioning, the work of 3SC in winning contracts should have become, in theory, easier. But that isn’t necessarily the case. Measuring social impact can be a bit of a minefield simply because there are many different ways of measuring it. “We can easily quantify what we do in terms of numbers of jobs created, for example, but measuring social impact is not the easiest thing to do and providers and commissioners alike struggle with it,” says Joanne. “Many Commissioners struggle with how to measure and score it in the procurement process and whilst some local authorities have it cracked and do implement good practice, it’s all a bit disconnected. The Social Value Act should be the overarching guide for it all, but in practice actually accounting for social value in procurement exercises is still not where it should be,” she says. Commissioners should be taking a “more value for money and social outcomes approach – not lowest cost – to assessing new contracts but I’m still not convinced this is always the case.”
That “value for money” approach is key to the way 3SC operates in, for example, its Transforming Rehabilitation work. Says Joanne: “A core part of the service is to produce monthly comprehensive management information reports on the performance of every organisation/service in the supply chain against their KPIs. This early identification of performance issues ensures that the Purple Futures Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) are equipped with all of the information that they require to manage their services and budgets to achieve maximum outcomes which in turn helps realise maximum levels of Payment by Results monies.”
There is a paradox in public sector procurement right now. From the demise of Carillion it’s evident that bigger in itself does not mean better. But bigger formations, so long as they are structured with local organisations, delivering local services driven by passion not profit, is what’s needed to create the greatest social impact, argues Joanne. “There could not be a better time to join with us to make the difference to people’s lives that everyone wants,” she says. “As getting better value for money from public contracts, with a heightened focus on better social outcomes comes more into play, 3SC is poised to become increasingly relevant.”
Photo by Angus Northover