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Last week, Public Spend Forum founder and CEO Raj Sharma was over from Washington DC visiting the UK (not from Chicago as we mistakenly claimed in our webinar!). While he was here we took the opportunity to hold said webinar to give PSF members and anyone interested (solution providers, or other suppliers to the public sector as well as practitioners) an update on progress this year, both in the US and beyond.

It was also an opportunity for the audience to ask questions about what we can practically do to add traction to that progress in the UK. Given the busy time of year for the public sector, we thought a 45-minute webinar would be more accessible than a full-blown “UK Exchange” meeting.

Peter Smith was also involved in the discussion, and he began by explaining the UK’s involvement in the overarching initiative to improve and promote public sector best practice in the UK. If you don’t yet know about the initiative, it is a collaborative attempt to: help public procurement and public supply markets work more effectively and to build a global community and a knowledge-sharing network around best practices, benchmarking, and diagnostic and learning tools.

He talked about the two UK Exchange Meetings we held this year with senior public sector leaders, and ran briefly through the outcomes of those discussions. You can access the slides to that here. – you do need to sign up to PSF to do that which is free, gives you access to lots of material on the website and only takes two minutes.

Raj then took over the helm and gave the background to PSF and what we believe to be the main issues affecting public sector markets today. He outlined our ambition to create open government markets where the best and most applicable suppliers can be found to enable public bodies to deliver value and positive outcomes to the citizen.

Our mission in PSF, he says, is to deliver market and supplier intelligence to enable the formation of more useful and value-delivering relationships. And to build a community with a common interest to drive that value.

From a tools and frameworks perspective, Raj explained how through discussions with many people in the public sector market, we have arrived at three main areas of current focus: a workforce competency model, looking at the core skills needed in public procurement; a measurement and management standard, a model built for the public sector to define just how you know what you are doing is successful (which will be rolled out initially in the US); and a procurement technology adoption framework looking at how technology is impacting public procurement.

The recent PSF public procurement technology symposium in the US was also very successful, and there is more on that available on the website for those who are interested.

The question then is this – given that there should not be too many regional barriers in terms of knowledge and skills, competencies and best practice – how far do any or all of these have synergy with the UK and Europe? How can we bring this to the rest of the world?

So the conversation turned to what we can usefully do here in UK to progress with the PSF vision. We can disseminate material through our PSF portal, and we can contribute material from the UK and Europe that might have relevance elsewhere. We can look at holding events, to support the US initiatives and help drive value transfer across Europe, although we recognise there are many events already and they do require considerable effort!

There was also a number of comments from the audience, including this from a Scottish local authority, who also reminded us that a competency model is in existence in Scotland:

Q. “A big challenge for us in UK is delivering more for less. I see that focusing on how we commission services as much as the process that we go through to procure things. Is outcome commissioning something you will be looking at going forward?”
A. Yes, this is of interest in both the US and the UK – we’ve also written about it on Spend Matters, such as our recent article featuring the Slough council initiatives.

And this from an education sector purchasing consortium:

Q. We would value more eLearning capability, perhaps around the Competency framework. Might a suite of eLearning packages be marketable in UK public sector?”
A. Yes, it might be, although Raj suggested that this was an area where PSF might look to partner with people who had existing expertise in e-learning rather than re-inventing the wheel.

Another comment asked whether we could do more in terms of podcasts as a great way to use real examples from the public procurement perspective – yes, certainly, and this is something Raj and the US team have started doing in the US. We can and should certainly mimic that here in the UK.

It just remained for Peter to ask readers/webinar listeners to submit their thoughts on what they would find most useful to them, and what we can do to replicate, in the UK and Europe, complement or add value to the initiatives taking place in the US.

You can listen to the discussion in more detail by registering (it is very quick) to access the webinar here. And we welcome your thoughts and ideas, please submit them via the comments field below.

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