A record number of online delegates joined the recent Cardiff Business School Breakfast Briefing to hear how the Well-being of Future Generations Act provides an opportunity to transform the way procurement is delivered in Wales. By moving towards an outcomes-based approach, we can ensure the £6 billion spent annually delivers the best outcomes across all four elements of well-being and helps to improve the economic, social, environmental and cultural well-being for current and future generations.

The event provided an update on the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales’ procurement recommendations which were outlined in her recent Future Generations 2020 Report, with opportunities to respond to questions submitted throughout the event.

“The high attendance at today’s event is a strong indication that at last procurement is rising to the top of the agenda”. (Dr Jane Lynch, Reader in Procurement at Cardiff Business School)

The session was opened by Cardiff Business School’s Director of Executive Education and Academic lead, Sarah Lethbridge.

Professor Kevin Morgan, Cardiff University Dean of Engagement, set the scene of the event by informing delegates about the historical challenges which have impacted the procurement profession. Professor Morgan noted that:

“Today’s event on Procuring for Well-being could not be more timely because we need to tap into the power of purchase to deal with the twin threats of Covid-19 and Brexit. But we need action not talk because we have been talking about tapping into the power of purchase for 20 years and we are knee-deep in reports that show that the key barrier is procurement capability, which boils down to skills, leadership and the status of the procurement function in all our organisations. Procurement needs to be in the boardroom not in the backroom.”

Working in partnership with Cardiff University, the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales triggered her first Section 20 Review in March 2020. The Review is focused on how Public Bodies covered by the Well-being of Future Generations Act (2015) are:

  1. Embedding the Act and Ways of Working into procurement contracts and frameworks; and how they are taking into account the long-term impact of their decisions; and
  2. The extent to which procurement is supporting delivery of the Public Bodies’ well-being objectives (and steps towards these).

To support this and future research, a Memorandum of Understanding is being signed between the two organisations later in the year, solidifying this partnership.

Based on initial findings of the Procurement Review, there was an interesting conversation between Sophie Howe (the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales) and Dr Jane Lynch (Reader in Procurement at Cardiff Business School), discussing how procurement should focus on delivering outcomes linked to the Well-being of Future Generations Act, based on ‘the Art of the possible’. They covered key priorities for the future of procurement in Wales.

Dr Jane Lynch shared five priorities and the order in which they need to happen:

  1. Leadership – procurement should be seen as a strategic lever across public bodies and there needs to be an updated clear procurement strategy and direction that embeds the Well-Being Goals and Ways of Working,
  2. Capacity – we urgently need to build capacity, and improve sharing and learning, if we want to improve the quality and outcomes of procurement,
  3. Skills – bringing diversity into procurement teams and encouraging a can-do mindset
  4. Closer integration and strategic collaboration to support innovation starting at the senior level
  5. ‘Buy local’ with a focus on wider outcomes – COVID-19 and Brexit pave the way to do things differently, in a way which will better support our well-being economy.

Sophie Howe referred to outcomes relating to ‘what’ and ‘how’. She explained that we should start with what is it we are trying to achieve, how do we procure this in a way that maximises benefit, but also ask the question around do we need to procure this at all? The “Art of the Possible”, based on the seven national Well-being Goals, needs to be considered with these projects to maximise the long-term impact. 

Sophie added that procurement also has to consider the contribution to the policy outcomes:

• Decarbonisation & nature loss

• Inequality & socio-economic disadvantage

• Jobs & skills for the future

• Community & population challenges eg loneliness & isolation

The event ended with a thoughtful question and answer session from the panel, led by Professor Morgan. If you missed the event and would like to listen back, a recording of the session is available here.

For more information, please read the Procurement chapter of the Future Generations Report, which is available here.