How does this initiative relate to the VCS Alliance?

The Consortium and the Alliance are two distinctly different but very complementary groups. Essex VCS Alliance aims to raise the voice of the sector, representing the grassroots of the county and creating a more coordinated representation of the voluntary sector's unified voice. The consortium is about being able to apply for contracts and respond to tenders that otherwise would be beyond the scope of individual organisations in the county. Consortium members and associates would very likely also be Alliance members.


Can any Essex not-for-profit body join

the Consortium?

will be dependent on several criteria.  Full is available to organisations which are 1) Demonstrably not-for-profit; 2) Essex-based; 3) Committed to consortium working; 4) 'Contract-ready' (i.e. meet the requirements of public sector Pre-Qualification Questionnaires (PQQs). would be offered to organisations which satisfy criteria 1-3 and which are working towards PQQ compliance.

How will this affect a VCS organisation to act independently?

There will be no difference. Organisations will bid for grants and contracts in the normal way. Other than when contributing to the delivery of a consortium contract, each member or associate organisation will have absolute autonomy and will be governed by their as reflected in their Mem and Arts. When actually taking part in the delivery of a 4SX contract, members will be required to adhere to the terms of the contract and maintain the quality expected. A key purpose of the consortium is to secure contracts that are beyond the reach of individual organisations and to develop innovative service solutions.

Surely the consortium will be a competitor to individual Essex-based charities?

That's not the intention. 4SX will mainly be bidding for large contracts not normally within the reach of individual organisations. It will only be in exceptional circumstances that small pots will be targeted, perhaps to support capacity building which will be beneficial to the sector as a whole.

Doesn't this introduce another layer of administration into the commissioning process?

The consortium will provide a way for Essex-based charities to bid for large scale commissions currently only achievable when organisations form a partnership for that purpose. In these situations, a partnership agreement needs to be drawn up, itself creating another layer of administration. The consortium would provide a ready-made way for organisations to work together, removing the need to start from scratch each time.

This looks something designed for the larger charities. Are there for small community groups?

Public sector providers require a certain level of quality that can be easily demonstrated (via externally verified quality systems for example). Therefore there is a focus on being for PQQ-ready organisations and those working towards contract readiness. However, a key differentiator of the VCS is that there are many small organisations which could contribute to a truly local solution that is unachievable by a large national organisation. Consequently, the consortium will be alive to how small groups can be part of the equation, probably on a sub-contracted basis.

How is the consortium managed?

The consortium has a of directors drawn from the who will be complemented by some independent directors. The executive function will be outsourced, at least initially, to create a flexible resource as the consortium grows and develops.

How will you select an organisation to provide the hub function?

Assuming an in-house function is not established from the start, there will be an open and competitive tendering process to select an organisation/organisations to deliver the hub function. 

How will commissioners be confident that the consortium won't sub-contract to poor quality providers?

A thorough due diligence exercise will undertaken as part of the recruitment process. Rigorous eligibility criteria, including the requirement to have in place an appropriate Quality Management System, will be mapped to appropriate PQQ thresholds and all applicants for will be vetted against these criteria. Any organisation bidding for a sub-contract or whose services are spot purchased, will need to demonstrate that they can meet the standards and thresholds appropriate to the role they will play in delivering the contract. Contract management will be the responsibility of the Hub and where sub contractors are under-performing, those sub contracts will be re-assigned to high performing organisations within the .

The consortium doesn't have a track record, how can we be assured that contracts will be managed efficiently and to appropriate standards?

Although the consortium, as a new legal entity, won't have a track record, it will be simply a structured mechanism for bringing together a wide range of long-established VCS providers into a unified tendering and contract management framework. As such it will build on the existing track records of its established constituent members. Similarly, the consortium will be able to draw on and utilise members' considerable existing capacity and expertise to manage contracts