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Pop up Parks: How I got commissioned

Pop up Parks: How I got commissioned

29 April 2016

Pop up Parks was one of the Knee High Design Challenge winner. Now, with successful commissions secured from Lambeth Council, Southbank Centre and Groundwork, we spoke to director Tom Doust and asked for his tips on how to attract business.

Turning an idea into reality is one thing but then turning that idea into a product or service that can be commissioned is a major step-up, particularly if you are social venture with limited resources. But don’t let that stop you. Becoming commissioned is, in our opinion, not as challenging or as daunting as it might seem. Here are five top tips on securing the deals.

1.Be really clear about your offer

Commissioners will want to know what your service will provide. We have found this has been less about the outcomes and outputs and more about the practical details. Be really clear about these upfront perhaps through a one page well designed document that reassures your commissioner that you have thought through all the details of your project from insurance through to equipment. Where possible bring in examples of where you have been commissioned previously to reassure them that you can deliver a brilliant service.

2. Understand the landscape

You might think you have a great service but it is important to look at the current context to understand where it might fit in. In our strategy document we outline five key areas where we believe there is a current focus: not just from national and local government but also from schools and communities. For example, a recent report highlighted a sudden spike in childhood obesity for primary school leavers. The following week Sport England announced that they would target their £1 billion fitness budget more widely with a focus on younger children. This will have an impact on our strategy moving forward.

3. Be agile and adapt if you can

Agility is such a useful attribute. If you are lucky, commissioners will employ your service in the way that your offer it. However, you are likely to find more success if you can adapt your offer. One of our latest commissions adapts our current offer (for just under fives) and extends it to primary school ages. In addition the focus switches from play and health to road safety and street awareness. It’s not a major shift away from what we do but we need to ensure that it is relevant to a broader age range.

4. Find the right people

If you are working in a public sector setting then finding the right person is key. From our experience it is about tracking down a ‘yes’ person to help you get a foot in the door and to begin an on going relationship. It can be a time consuming process but it’s worth it when you make the breakthrough. If you feel a relationship is going nowhere fast then move on, it will be more fruitful in the long run.

5. Right place, right time

The more experienced I become as a professional the more I realise a lot comes down to timing. The advice here is not to get hung up if things don’t go your way. If it hasn’t happened this time it is probably for a reason and if you are committed to keep trying then it will happen somewhere else. So often decisions are made based on what a commissioners immediate priorities are so, to some extent, it’s always in the laps of the gods.

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