Coming up with sustainable, inclusive and smart solutions in public procurement is not something that is easy to pull off, and that currently still results in additional costs. A lack of knowledge on the part of public authorities in combination with smaller budgets puts pressure on green and sustainable goals. Familiar examples of new and not-so-new phenomena in the procurement world where these types of tensions emerge in practice include circular procurement, social contracting, societal contracting (maatschappelijk aanbesteden, a type of commission model in which citizens are given the opportunity to be involved in the performance of the project), the right to challenge (citizens are given priority if they themselves are prepared to perform tasks or services for the community in the area where they live), social return on investments in which the contractor is required to invest a certain percentage of the contract amount in long-term unemployed people or in traineeships or study opportunities, etc), functional contracting (the contracting authority asks for a certain result to be achieved without prescribing to the contractor how that result must be brought about).
Another striking example where these types of tensions emerge in practice concerns the organization of health care and the increasingly need for methods of Performance Based Contracting, outcome-oriented purchasing and commissioning in the social domain (Dutch Social Support Act, youth care, debt rescheduling). Societal challenges to maintain a high-quality long-term health care system at sustainable expenditure forces Dutch local governments to innovate in commissioning and financing care, and to explore and use (new) opportunities in the legal framework concerning health care procurement. Studying the facilitation and stimulation of innovation in care service provision through new ways of commissioning and financing care has become urgent. Collaboration between formal care providers, volunteers, new local civil initiatives and local governments as contracting authorities is a goal, but also meets the boundaries of the relevant legal framework. The benefits to society in all the above-mentioned phenomena can be dramatic but they generate a type of “profit” that cannot be expressed in short-term, financial metrics, and that it enhances the risks of abuse and discrimination as forbidden by the EU Treaties. Solving those legal problems correctly requires legal as well as interdisciplinary research, because if something does not work well this cannot always be solved by rules, nor are the rules always to blame for the problem.
Sub-themes and specific projects
- Innovative organizational structures for social services (of general interest)
- Social commissioning for inclusive cities
- Sustainability / Sustainable and inclusive development / innovation
- Stimulating social entrepreneurship