10GM - A joint venture to support the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector in Greater Manchester

10GM Blog: 

Commissioning Challenges in Greater Manchester's VCSE Sector


The Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) sector plays a crucial role in enhancing the well-being of communities in Greater Manchester. With its diverse range of organisations, from charities and social enterprises to community groups and community interest companies, the VCSE sector addresses various societal issues and provides essential services to people in need. However, the sector faces several significant challenges when it comes to commissioning in Greater Manchester.

In this blog, Keisha, Project Manager at 10GM, explores the unique hurdles the VCSE sector encounters, and the steps required to overcome them.

1. Complexity in Commissioning 

The commissioning process in Greater Manchester's VCSE sector can be overly complicated and bureaucratic. Local authorities and public bodies may have complex procurement and contracting systems in place, making it challenging for smaller, grassroots organisations to navigate. The complexity can deter some organisations from even participating in commissioning processes.

Solution: Streamlining commissioning processes and expectations, making better use of grants and flexible funding approaches, and providing better support and guidance to smaller organisations can help them navigate the system more effectively. 

2. Capacity to Participate

The VCSE Sector is not one homogenous group- organisations differ significantly in scale and maturity; and therefore, their resources, capacity, and skills to compete for commissioning opportunities. This can leave smaller and newer groups at a disadvantage, creating an imbalance which hinders diversity and innovation within the sector.

Solution: Implementing mechanisms for fairer distribution of commissioning opportunities, and allocating support and resources to smaller, innovative organisations to promote inclusivity. 

3. Short-Termism

Commissioning processes often focus on short-term projects, outcomes, and immediate cost savings rather than long-term investment, sustainability, and societal benefits. This can hinder the VCSE sector's ability to retain a skilled workforce, innovate, and deliver meaningful and lasting impact.

Solution: Encouraging a more balanced investment approach that considers both short-term and long-term outcomes can better serve the community's interests. 

4. Fragmentation

Greater Manchester comprises multiple local authorities, each with its own commissioning processes, priorities, and requirements. This fragmentation can result in a lack of consistency and coherence in commissioning, making it challenging for organisations that operate across multiple areas.

Solution: Greater coordination and alignment among local authorities can help reduce fragmentation and simplify the commissioning landscape.

5. Capacity-Building Support

The VCSE sector in Greater Manchester requires support in terms of capacity building, including training, development, data, and governance. Contracts and grants don’t always consider management and back-office costs. Without adequate resources and guidance, organisations may struggle to meet commissioning standards.

Solution: Investing in capacity-building initiatives through Local Infrastructure Organisations, and including management costs within contracts and grants, can help VCSE organisations to enhance their ability, skills, and governance structures to meet commissioning requirements effectively.

6. Community Engagement

Community engagement is not always present in commissioning processes. This can result in decisions that do not align with the actual needs and desires of the community, ultimately undermining the sector's effectiveness.

Solution: Incorporating meaningful community involvement and consultation in commissioning processes can lead to more targeted and impactful outcomes.


The VCSE sector in Greater Manchester is a vibrant and essential part of the region's social fabric, addressing various challenges and enhancing the well-being of communities. To overcome the commissioning challenges it faces, it is crucial to simplify and streamline commissioning processes, address funding inequalities, reduce fragmentation, promote a long-term perspective, and provide the necessary capacity-building support. By doing so, Greater Manchester can ensure that its VCSE sector continues to thrive, delivering meaningful and lasting impact to the community it serves. 

Find out more about our Commissioning and Investment work

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Commissioning and Investment 

10GM supports the work of the VCSE Commissioning Group, which is a formal sub-group of the GM VCSE Leadership Group.

Published: 17 November 2023.

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