The Outcomes Star: Commissioning and funding

Monday, 26 March 2018 - 3:44pm

Are you a commissioner thinking about including the Outcomes Star in a tender or are you being asked by commissioners to include the Outcomes Star in your project or service?  

a man and a woman talking

Paul Muir, Operations Director at Triangle, the social enterprise behind the Outcomes Star, shares a few top tips and pitfalls to avoid.

The Outcomes Star has been around for 10 years now, and a lot of people know about it – but not always what it does or how it works. At Triangle, we get many calls from projects and services who have been asked to include the Star in tenders or to use the Star as a prerequisite for gaining a contract or investment. Equally, we get calls from the odd commissioner when a potential provider has added the Star in a random way to a tender response.

In most of these cases, the right Star can be a useful tool for a project or service but there are some cases where the Star won’t work. It is not in anyone’s interests if the Star, or indeed any tool, is shoehorned into a project when it is not the right bit of kit for service users, practitioners or the project. Here are few things to mull on if you are a commissioner or are being asked by a commissioner to use the Star.

Is the Star the right tool in the first place?

The Stars are ready-made, sector-wide tools designed to track outcomes and distance-travelled and to be used in services that have an element of holistic key-work at the heart of their offer to service users. It is designed to be used in services where there is time for services to create change.

It will not work for drop-in services where you might only see someone once and it will struggle to make a meaningful contribution to very short-term services or services that are very light touch.

Is the wrong Star better than no Star?

The answer is usually no. With over 30 versions of the Star now published (and more co-created by us and services all the time), each version has a different focus and covers many sectors and service user groups. However, we don’t have Stars for every occasion and probably never will. If the Star version you use is not close enough to the work you do, then it can make conversations with service-users potentially very challenging and unproductive for everyone.

Should I include the Star in a bid or require it in a tender?

The first step is to talk to Triangle and we can advise you if your project or commissioning plan indicates that the criteria above will be met.  If there is not an existing Star solution, then we can talk to you about Star development or support you to look for other tools that might work better.  If Star is the right tool, we can help you implement it in a way that can add significant value – helping to bring an outcome and person-centred focus to key-work interventions and generating outcomes data and intelligence.

What does good commissioning practice look like?

Triangle has some good examples where commissioners will contact us directly to talk through where the Star might fit in a tender or ask us to chat to providers to help them make the right choice of Star.  We work closely with West Mercia Police and Crime Commissioners, alongside their providers, meaning that projects are getting the right help and using the right tools for them.

We also have examples of poor practice where projects are being asked to include the Star in services where it just won’t work.  We have on a few occasions provided these projects with an official ‘note’ explaining why the Star won’t work and are always happy to do what we can to support good Star practice. 

Looking ahead, we are planning to focus more on talking to commissioners across the UK and learning more about what works with the Star – and we welcome any suggestions or feedback! 

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Paul Muir

Head of Operations at Triangle Consulting

Paul was a consultant for over 16 years and is now Head of Operations at Triangle Consulting the creators of the Outcomes StarTM.