A daft “challenge” in the University procurement sector

Andy Davies is the Director of the London Universities Purchasing Consortium, and as I think we’ve mentioned before, also a blogger who writes well and targets his audience in the Universities sector very clearly.

Northampton. I once co-ran a factory here that burnt down.

He wrote recently on the LUPC website about a new idea from the Vice-Chancellor at the University of Northampton, (no rude comments please, I worked in Northampton once and have a real affection for the place), Professor Nick Petford,  who has challenged the higher education sector to spend £1 billion per annum (of £7 billion non-pay spend per annum) with social enterprises by 2015.


Davies was very polite about this idea, although he went as far as to say this:

But I will be asking just how realistic – or aspirational – this target is.  Social enterprises are growing, but their reach is still pretty limited and doesn’t yet stretch (to my knowledge) to the sector’s biggest spend categories: IT, construction, energy, library resources, laboratory equipment and so forth. It may be that the University of Northampton will demonstrate the rigorous research behind the target that proves its undoubted achievability.  

A career in the diplomatic service awaits Mr Davies...  However, I don’t work in the sector so I can say what I think. Which is, that it’s a truly daft idea. Please, procurement people in the University sector, ignore the Professor. He knows not what he sayeth.

Why social enterprises? Why not charities? Why not deserving small firms run by disadvantaged single mothers? Or Iraq veterans? Or local firms? And why does the Professor think he can speak on behalf of the whole university community and issue a “challenge” of that nature without some serious market research first?

And, as Davies hints, there just aren’t the number of social enterprises out there to make this target viable. What does he want procurement people to do? Give work to crappy, inefficient, incompetent organisations just because they’re social enterprises?

We’ve been a bit quiet on the Stupid Sourcing front recently, but here’s a real contender for one of our coveted 2012 awards!

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