Commissioning for maximum value – gaining social return on investment


A good read, this guidance may be an eye opener for NHS commissioners new to the game and wishing to rise above the minutiae of clinical redesign to look, in the round, at the steps involved in commissioning. It presents the principles on social return on investment in public service that can be applied to decision making right through the cycle of commissioning.

A timely addition to the UK Government’s “Best Value Statutory Guidance, the report also clearly depicts the National Audit Office Model of value for money.

Principles of social return on investment (SROI)

Five principles apply through the commissioning cycle: involve stakeholders, understand change, value the things that matter, only include things that are material and do not overclaim.

There are also two reporting principles: be transparent and verify the result


This guide illustrates the application of the first five SROI principles at each stage of a standardised commissioning cycle.

Part 1:  an overview of value as it applies to commissioning

Part 2: a model for commissioning for value with five sections covering each step of the commissioning cycle: initiating commissioning; needs analysis; options appraisal and service design; sourcing; implementation, delivery and review. For each stage, the guide presents:

  • what needs to be done
  • reasons for action
  • how SROI principles are applied and appropriate methods

Part 3 is rich in links to sources of support and further information on the following topics:

Commissioning and policy

  • Commissioning and commissioning from civil society
  • Value, value for money and best value
  • Evolving government policy on commissioning
  • Co-production

The commissioning cycle

  • Needs assessment
  • Business cases and cost-benefit analysis
  • Commissioning for outcomes

Monitoring and Evaluation

  • Aspects of SROI
  • General SROI
  • SROI reporting and assurance
  • Attribution and joined-up working
  • Valuing inputs
  • Materiality
  • Outcomes tools and indicators of outcomes
  • Financial Proxies/Monetisation
  • Stakeholder Involvement

It also includes a glossary, an interview guide to support Needs assessment, comments on managing outcomes in the public sector and two case studies:

  1. recommissioning meals on wheels
  2. City of Edinburgh Council care at home services


Inglis, J. et al. Guide to Commissioning for Maximum Value (PDF). The Social Return On Investment Network for the Local Government Association (UK), 16 Feb 2012

Share on Facebook Tweet this on Twitter Share on LinkedIn Share on Google+