Improving public services by helping mutuals partner
Mutuals are stronger when they partner with like-minded organisations

We delivered a programme for DCMS to improve partnership opportunities for Public Service Mutuals.

The Mutuals Partnership Support Programme was: A pilot programme during 2018-19 that aimed to support a small number of public service mutuals to form partnerships with other organisations as a route to growth.

The way public services are being commissioned continues to change rapidly across England. One of the challenges facing many Mutuals is that contracts are becoming wider in scope geographically, and require a more integrated, multi-discipline approach to service delivery. This often means building partnerships in order to adapt and compete.

The pilot programme aimed to better understand and test appetite, opportunities and identify barriers for Mutuals who want to collaborate with other organisations as a route to support their capacity and capability to bid for these expanding contracts, as well as aid their long-term overall sustainability.

First, we embarked on a research project to analyse the need for support to develop partnerships.

Partnerships for better public services explored the need to partner, the benefits and challenges of it, and recommended ways to maximise partnership opportunities, which we believe are necessary for Public Service Mutuals and other alternative delivery vehicles to innovate and grow to their full potential. Forming strategic partnerships with other organisations can offer Mutuals new routes to delivering innovative and cost-effective solutions to the public.

100% of Mutuals said they would consider forming partnerships to improve their chances of winning bids. Furthermore, we found that whilst live tendering creates the impetus to have partnering conversations, Mutuals envision partnerships as routes to achieve long-term strategic growth and sustainability, rather than just to bid for single contracts.


Once the case was made, we supported three projects across housing, health and social care. You can read the evaluation and case studies of the pilot programme to find out more about the experiences of the three recipients.

Our report evaluated whether the pilot Mutuals Partnership Support Programme had met its objectives. To do so, it analysed feedback from deep dive interviews with senior leaders from the three projects supported by the programme – data driven community care; Rochdale Boroughwide Housing and First Community Health and Care. It found that MPSP had positively impacted the five mutuals it supported:

  • All participants reported that they were now better aware of their partnering environment and felt empowered to apply the knowledge and processes needed to partner again without external support.
  • Recipients have benefitted from gaining commercial capabilities and new business tools.
  • Two out of three projects have resulted in formal partnership agreements and the development of meaningful collaborative relationships with other providers.
  • The third project has led to a roadmap to form a partnership, following deep analysis of gaps in service provision matched to user need.

We therefore concluded that MPSP is a helpful illustration of how to support mutuals to future-proof and expand their service provision.

In the report, we make a number of recommendations to help continue to support mutuals in their all-important partnerships, ultimately allowing the relatively young and unknown sector to thrive.

The programme was one of several strands (including the Mutuals Support Programme) aimed at improving awareness of, opportunities for, and routes into the public service mutuals sector.

If you’re a Mutual and want support in building partnerships and networks, talk to us. We can also help if you’re a public service thinking of looking at alternative models of delivery.