The Road Ahead

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Bid for and win contracts

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This is the stage at which consortium members need to work together to bid for, and hopefully win, contracts. 

At this stage of consortium development, you will come across some of the thorny issues than can make or break a new consortium - namely deciding on what contracts to bid for, and how subcontracts are allocated to members. Our examples and templates will support you to work through these issues.

Often new consortia do not win the first contract they go for, and this can be demoralising. The key thing here is to learn and move forward.

Outcomes for this stage

  • Time has been spent working out how the consortium will manage some critical processes such as internal competition and managing bids, and appropriate policies have been developed and adopted.
  • You have bid for and won your first contract and are now in the delivery stage. Or you were not successful, but you have systems in place to capture the learning from the knock-back and are in a stronger position for the next bid.  

Key activities for this stage

1. Tender readiness

  • Ensure that you have an updated pre-qualification questionnaire (PQQ), together with up-to-date versions of the documents that the PQQ asks for, ideally all in one place. From 2015 this is a standard form.
  • Ensure that you have the likely documentation that will be required when submitting a tender.
  • Ensure that you can articulate the additional social value that you can offer to a contract. Public authorities now have a duty to consider social value in contracts, so this should put you at an advantage.
  • Produce and adopt a tendering strategy.
  • Plan how quality will be demonstrated throughout the consortium.
    • The Trusted Standard quality mark is the most common quality approach for voluntary organisations.
    • ISO9001 is the most recognised for the central hub function.
    • Different subsectors will have their own specialist standards, such as Matrix for advice services, or the approved provider status for mentoring and befriending.
  • Consider how the consortium will engage a wide range of stakeholders in the development of services, including service users and partners beyond the consortium.
  • Conduct an internal gap analysis to identify any weaknesses or gaps that may become apparent once you start to bid for contracts. See our example from Rotherham below.

2. Bidding strategy

  • Spend time as a consortium working out what your priorities are, the kind of services that you wish to deliver, and things that are not worth going for as a consortium. This will focus your efforts, and should avoid the tendency to haphazardly bid for things that might not be suitable or might overstretch the consortium’s resources.
  • Develop and adopt a bidding strategy. This will set out criteria for deciding whether or not to go for a contract. Ensure that you have clarity as to what level of involvement the board has in this.
  • Think about how you can proactively create opportunities by creating solutions for commissioners.

3. Internal competition

This can make or break a consortium. It is much easier to fall out than it is to develop a solid partnership.

  • Spend time in meetings working out a fair and transparent process for awarding subcontracts.  It is vital the consortium members have confidence that this is fair, and that there is no favouritism, for example towards board members, or founding members.
  • From this, develop and adopt a strategy for managing internal competition (for example see Peterborough Plus's 'Supply chain development and subcontracting policy' below).
  • Consider setting up an internal arbitration panel to manage internal disputes before they spill out into the public domain, and before the need for commissioners or external parties to have to get involved.

4. Conflict of interest and protecting confidentiality

There is a critical time when you will need to start developing a bid, and consortium member organisations might not be prepared to work with the consortium exclusively – in other words, they might also wish to bid independently of the consortium, or be part of another consortium bid. There must be a robust system in place for organisations to opt in or opt out of bids before any commercially sensitive information is shared. Only members that have opted in can then be part of the bid development.

You should also:

  • Get help from lawyers in drawing up a template non-disclosure agreement.
  • Ensure that you conduct your business in a way that does not breach competition law.

5. Bid management

  • For each contract, make sure you can mobilise the best bid-writing team, and have adequate time and resources.
  • Use Theory of Change to clearly articulate what the proposed service will achieve and how you will measure progress and achieve the stated outcomes of the contract across the partnership. A tender might not ask for this information in this specific format, but a Theory of Change will give you a strong framework for answering questions in the tender that relate to impact, outcomes and measuring success.
  • For complex bids, adopt a project plan for the bid development process and set down dates for completion of key milestones. For example, a tender might need to be signed by a board member, so you will need to schedule dates for board sign-off with enough time for them to read the tender.
  • Where necessary, ensure that the board has an appropriate level of involvement in developing a bid, and potentially the boards of the named subcontractors.

This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 14 October 2020

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