Commissioning platform

We're developing a commissioning ‘platform’ – tools, templates and guidance – to support government agencies, service providers and others to more effectively deliver social services. Commissioning puts people at the centre of the decision-making process.

Social investment commissioning is a set of inter-related steps that converts policy and investment into effective social services for New Zealanders.

Commissioning programmes already exist in New Zealand but this is a new approach to investing in effective services for people who need services from multiple agencies.

Successful commissioning is underpinned by the use of data and evidence to support what services work, for whom, at what cost.

Why is a new approach needed?

The commissioning platform will ensure approaches are:

  • joined up across the social sector
  • driven by evidence
  • focused on outcomes for people
  • take a whole-of-life view.

Better tools, infrastructure and consistency will improve data collection, evaluation and feedback, leading to better investment decisions, increased information sharing and, ultimately, better service outcomes.

The Commissioning approach is supported by the conclusions of the Productivity Commission’s More Effective Social Services (external link) report conclusion for more information.

Five steps of commissioning

Image of the Common Commissioning ModelEffective commissioning requires five inter-related steps to be completed (they can’t be undertaken in isolation and each must be done):

Step 1:  Assessing needs:

  • use data and analytics to understand who needs what, who currently gets what, where the gaps or overlaps are
  • use evidence to understand what works
  • identify desired outcomes and understand costs and benefits.

Step 2:  Solution design:

  • co-design services (and evaluation) with the right stakeholders
  • identify the most appropriate service model, e.g. in-house, contracting, client-directed budgets (allowing clients to decide what would help them best).

Step 3: Investment/service models:

  • identify and select the most appropriate way to deliver, structure and fund services.

Step 4: Implementation:

  • monitor on-going performance to ensure for effectiveness and continuous improvement.

Step 5: Evaluation and monitoring:

  • measure and evaluate people’s experiences and outcomes
  • compare performance to the original cost-benefit assessments
  • feedback loops ensure information on outcomes informs future investment decisions.

Is commissioning just procurement by another name?

Procurement is only one part (of step 3) of the commissioning process.

Procurement begins with an assumption the government will purchase a market-supplied service. This may be one option within a commissioning approach but, equally, the decision may be made not to purchase a service from the market.

Other models that could be considered include in-house provision or client directed budgets.

Traditional procurement models may have effectively delivered services to the majority of New Zealanders in need. However, this process doesn’t meet the needs of those with multiple and complex needs.

The Productivity Commission’s report (external link) notes commissioning starts by asking what the best way is to achieve a specific outcome for a person or group.

Key principles of commissioning platform development

  • Tools should be repeatable and scalable.
  • Tools should encompass the five-step commissioning process.
  • Commissioning partners need to cover different interests and perspectives.
  • Focus is on people with high complexity and low capacity to coordinate services themselves.

Supporting commissioning organisations

We’re working with a range of organisations to prototype reusable and scalable commissioning tools, templates and guidance for social investment.

Many of the organisations we’re working with are driving exciting innovations in how we deliver services; the commissioning platform is being designed to support these innovations and to trial and test new ways for government, NGOs and other stakeholders to work together on our most pressing issues.

Designed around the five steps, these include:

  • Guidance on how to identify and prioritise population groups.
  • Methods, to:
    • identify and place a value on improved outcomes
    • decide how much the government should be willing to pay to achieve improved outcomes
    • assess, report on, and use outcomes to inform future investment decisions, including establishing new mechanisms for data sharing.
  • Processes and templates for choosing and implementing partnership arrangements, service models and payment methods.


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