Reflections of a lead expert on the Procure Network
Over the course of the last two and a half years, I have been fortunate enough to be the Lead Expert for the URBACT III Programme’s Procure network. Involving 11 cities from 8 countries, the Network has sought to change the way in which municipalities and wider anchor institutions think about the process of public procurement.
My role as Lead Expert has been to: understand the challenges those cities face around public procurement and what they are already doing; to stimulate exchange of ideas through facilitating transnational meeting with all the cities; providing bespoke support to each city around how they can change policy and practice; and to shape action plans for the future.
The whole process has been an amazing personal learning experience. I have learned so much about the art of facilitation – giving every individual the opportunity to talk and engage; using different methodologies to develop ideas and share learning; and in using action planning to shape real change in processes and behaviours.
The Procure network has achieved a lot over the last two and a half years which is reflected in the final publication (LINK), the video (LINK), the infographic (LINK) and a range of other materials (LINK TO PRESTON CITY COUNCIL PAGE). These achievements include: change in each of the cities involved around the process of procurement; a realisation that procurement has to be a cycle of activity; the development of 11 forward facing and stretching action plans; and a host of personal and professional developments amongst the participants.
At the conclusion of the network, I wanted to reflect upon the key reasons for the success of the network:
- The network has been framed by the experience of places across the UK have had in shifting procurement processes and practices, with this translated on a European level;
- The network partners have been prepared to challenge orthodoxies around procurement; moving away from a core emphasis on price to consider other factors such as social challenges;
- The network partners have been prepared to take risks, going against the way the have traditionally done things to utilise a more progressive approach;
- The network partners have come from very different positions in terms of what they had already done; but all with something to offer to each other – this has enabled learning across the network;
- The network has been delivered with a spirit of cooperation at its core; partners have given and taken knowledge in equal quantities at both transnational and local levels;
- The network has made a perceived dull and boring subject fun and enjoyable; through the approach of partners and the methodologies used to shape change;
- The network partners have become friends, and not just people who come together every month to discuss a particular policy theme.
Through the activities of the Procure network, the topic of public procurement has come to the forefront of European policy making. This is testament to an eighth reason and that is hard work, graft and determination to make a difference.