Facilitating thinking in the world of procurement

We’ve had a few really successful projects working with Rotherham Council. One of the biggest wins has been getting to work alongside not only the commissioning team there, but the procurement specialists who help steer them through what they can and can’t do within commercial legislation. There’s a lot of complexity for them to navigate when it comes to breaking out of the status quo and opening up the process of commissioning to include more people, and we’ve been really inspired to see how progressive and forward this team are prepared to be! We were delighted when we learned that they’d been impressed by us as well, and wanted us to run a workshop for them at a regional procurement group they belong to.


For this workshop, we did as much research as we could on the group and what they might expect from a session. We like to prepare a pretty thorough workshop plan for this sort of event, but always one which has a few options for deviating based on what’s working on the day. There’s nothing worse than seeing the potential for a session to take an interesting turn and not feeling agile enough to respond. We’re always open to going a bit off piste! In the spirit of coproduction, it feels like you get the best results by letting the group make the workshop what they need it to be, and this was no exception.


We set the tone with some of our favourite Thinking Environment exercises, getting everyone’s voices into the room and starting on a positive note. It’s often a bit nerve racking starting sessions with “serious professionals” like commissioners and procurement teams. They operate in such a pressured environment usually, it’s difficult not to be conscious of how alien some of our methods must be. Once again though the tools won them round. A round of Thinking Pairs and they were already seeing the huge difference just taking the time to talk to their colleagues without interruption could make. Once you get that sort of momentum going, everything starts to feel a bit more straightforward. We went on to use a mixture of interactive activities and sharing stories, explaining our approach to coproduction and the potential ways they could make use of the tools we shared in their work with commissioners and legal teams.


This was a fascinating session to be a part of and deliver. It was such a privilege to be welcomed into this world and to meet these passionate, committed and hugely talented people. We learned loads from the group. It was great to hear that the group also learned from the session, with one attendee feeding back that it was the best workshop they had ever attended! High praise indeed for the Thinking Environment approach.

Chris Hewitt

Twitter: @c_hewitt_

Emma Ward