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Exploring the new world: Practical insights for funding, commissioning and managing in complexity

Cripplegate Foundation and Islington Giving have been acknowledged in the report Exploring the new world: Practical insights for funding, commissioning and managing in complexity written by Toby Lowe (Northumbria University) and Dawn Plimmer (Collaborate).

Exploring the new world builds on the 2017 report A Whole New World, which outlined a new way of thinking about, and responding to, complex social challenges. It suggested that the outcomes sought by funders and commissioners are created by complex systems, rather than particular organisations. As a result, the emphasis on “Markets, Managers, and Metrics” synonymous with the New Public Management that arose and came to dominate in the UK in the 1980s and 1990s is no longer effective in bringing about systems change.

A new approach

Following extensive consultation, and a range of activities across sectors and locations, the report suggests an alternative approach based on three key tenets (Human, Learning, Systems - HLS):

Being Human to one another: they recognise and respond to human variety with bespoke support, they build empathy between people, they recognise the strengths of others, and they seek to trust and be trusted.

Using Learning to enable performance improvement: they use a variety of both quantitative and qualitative data to learn; they create learning cultures; and they fund and commission for learning, not for the delivery of specified services.

Looking after the health of the Systems which create social outcomes: they create the conditions in which people can understand the systems of which they are part, and enable effective collaboration and co-ordination of actors within these systems.

Conclusion and recommendations

The report's Conclusion outlines six key norms for funders and commissioners to adopt that would support these three key behaviours: 

  • Creating shared leadership: so that the movement responds to a plurality of voices across different parts of the system
  • Connecting people: so that people and organisations can share knowledge and experience
  • Influencing: creating a network of champions, so that those who seek change can draw on the support of others
  • Building an enabling environment: working with national Governments and regulators to create the conditions where an HLS approach is possible
  • Creating bespoke support for organisations to help them change: for example, by developing masterclasses, peer support netwokrs, and consultancy offers
  • Generating, curating, and sharing learning: developing knowledge resources to help inform practice.