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Consortium operating models

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The different ways that voluntary organisations can work together collectively to bid for and deliver public service contracts.

There are a number of ways to collaborate, of which forming a consortium is just one. These include everything from a loose network to a full merger.

Within those options, there are a range of operating models for voluntary sector consortia. It is important that everyone involved in the consortium development understands these options, and works together to decide on the best operating model for the local circumstances.

The three most common operating models are as follows.

Managing agent model

This is where an existing organisation bids for contracts and then finds subcontractors to deliver the actual service. They do not deliver any of the service provision themselves, instead they specialise in providing a contract winning and management function.

An example of this kind of consortium is City & Hackney Together (a subsidiary of Hackney Council for Voluntary Service).

C&HT is a company limited by guarantee. It has one ‘member’, which is Hackney CVS (HCVS), but functions with an advisory group made up of frontline providers. HCVS is the lead body for bids and the employer of consortium staff. All HCVS trustees are directors of the consortium company.

The consortium was set up on the request of local VCS organisations, and HCVS continued to check with its local organisations that it retained their mandate to do this throughout the process. Hackney Council provided seed funding for the consortium.

In 2016/17 the consortium secured nearly £7m for the local sector, including Ageing Better.

Managing provider model

This is similar to managing agent, but the lead body, while sub-contracting some of the service to partners, also directly delivers part of it.

For example, in 2013 Cabinet Office commissioned NCVO to deliver a series of commercial masterclasses across England. NCVO delivered some of these in-house and took overall responsibility for the programme of work, and subcontracted delivery to a number of partners including NAVCA, ACEVO and Social Enterprise UK.


This is by far the most common form that is chosen by consortia.

The difference here is that the organisations that come together to collaborate set up a separate legal structure, which embodies collective ownership and control. Through this structure, many separate providers effectively become one large provider (hence the term ‘super provider’).

An example of this is Sandwell Consortium.

Hub and spokes

Within the super-provider model, we use the term ‘hub and spokes’ to describe how core management functions of the consortium are carried out by a central support unit or ‘hub’, leaving the providers (the ‘spokes’) to deliver frontline services through sub-contract.

The main roles of the central hub are:

Last reviewed: 14 October 2020

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This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 14 October 2020

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