Social Private Partnerships: innovation in public service delivery

PwC Public Sector Research Centre published these days a study on “Social Private Partnerships”. Using profit to deliver social benefits is a concept that the private sector has already embraced through its considerable investment in corporate social responsibility programmes. Maximising profit should enable social enterprise to deliver a higher level of ‘mission benefits’. Therefore, PwC considers that the time is ripe to recognise the coming together of the two related sectors, and to adopt a more assertive approach to partnerships between social enterprises and private firms in the provision of public services.

Working together, and sharing experience and resources, may indeed become a necessary means of achieving the traditional aims of both sectors whilst better harnessing public spending for the wider public good. However, it is important not to exaggerate or confuse the role of the third sector and social enterprise. Much of the third sector will remain dependant on giving. Only 2% of total public spending is on third sector delivery and a high proportion of social enterprises are micro-businesses. Even so, the sector receives widespread support and is popular with Government and service users. Moreover, if the goal is to create a mixed economy of providers then there will need to be more social enterprise involvement, especially in areas where private providers or public providers are dominant.

The economic downturn will act as a brake on the rate of growth and constrict access to conventional funding, but may also open up new opportunities as the government seeks to fast-track spending in key areas like health, education, housing and transport while also delivering on social outcomes, such as limiting inequality.

Advancement in outcome-based commissioning (whereby social or local added-value, like volunteering or mentoring are factored into the procurement process) and the introduction of full cost recovery should be real plusses.

You may download the full PwC study at:
“Social Private Partnerships: innovation in public service delivery,” PwC Public Sector Research Centre, 2009

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