Assist plus assess mode when funding a sole provider


Academic references to outcomes theory

The principle

When it is only feasible for a funder to use a sole provider (e.g. in the case of a government department’s core services, or in the case of key employees or key work teams) then, in addition to an assess mode assessing the peformance of a provider, the funder also needs an assist mode. Not having an assist mode and just using the sanction of cutting funding for bad performance can often lead to the provider being unable to improve. This is because it no longer has the resources needed for improvement. 

Dr Paul Duignan, Three Minute Outcomes video on this principle

The problem

Funders and control agencies are always wanting to improve their providers' performance. Common sense would suggest that a funder should simply use an assess mode to assess the performance of its provider. Where the provider underperforms, the funder can then cut funding to the provider as an incentive for it to improve. This is an option where the funder can easily chose between many potential providers. If the underperforming provider does not improve, the funder can simply pick an alternative provider.

However, in some cases, a funder only has one feasible provider. This happens, for instance, in the case of a government department’s core activity. This problem in such cases is that if the funder simply reduces funding for the underperforming provider, they may no longer have sufficient resources to improve their performance. What often happes in practice is that the funder threatens to reduce funding but then decides to not actually implement the funding penalty because it realizes the implications of less funding on the provider’s ability to improve.

The solution

The solution is for the funder, control agency or employer to provide an assist mode in addition to its assess mode.  When a provider underperforms then, instead of cutting its funding, the funder moves in with an assist mode to help the provider improve its performance.