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Short Guide to Using The Chest

The Chest is the Northwest e-portal for procurement where local authorities (and some other public bodies) advertise some of their tenders. Grants are not advertised on it, however, all kinds of things are advertised on it that might be of interest including consultancies and training.

There is a beginners guide here, but the most important part is setting up how you will be notified of new opportunities, and it’s where many newbies go wrong as the guidance here is not helpful for voluntary and community sector organisations who don’t tend to fit neatly into the categories. They’re fine if you supply water-coolers which happens to be the example used in the guidance.

Setting up notifications means selecting which public authority opportunities you want to hear about and which categories and sub-categories of provision. There are literally thousands of categories and sub-categories and there is little consistency on how these are used by public authoritie,s so it’s important to cast a wide net.

1) Sign up for all the public authorities in Greater Manchester as Greater Manchester opportunities are dealt with by one of the local authorities. If you’ve only signed up to hear about Manchester opportunities then you risk not hearing about Greater Manchester ones. Do not use the Greater Manchester sub-region, sign up to each public authority individually.

2) Think about everything that your organisation does now or might want to do in the future and be as creative as you can.

For example some of the categories I’ve signed up to are:
15000000 - Consultancy
16000000 - Domestic Goods
17000000 - Education
18000000 - Environmental Services
21000000 - Furniture
24000000 - Horticultural
25000000 - Housing Management
28000000 - Legal Services
29000000 - Leisure Services
32000000 - Social Community Care Supplies and Services
Human Resources - 26100000 - Interpretation and Translation
Human Resources - 26140000 - Training and Conferences

The worst that happens is that you get too many notifications which is better than not finding out about one that you did want to apply for.
Look through all of the categories and sign up to lots. You can always delete them at a later stage.

3) Go to The Chest at least once a week over the next few weeks and look at the latest opportunities to check whether you have set up notifications properly and are getting notified about everything you want to be.

4) Put in an expression of interest on a few of the opportunities that you are notified about whether or not you intend to apply. You will not be judged for not putting in an application. This gives you access to the documentation that is issued for the tender and the Q&A. Don’t be shy about asking questions. You aren’t judged on the questions you ask.

The Chest is difficult to use (see blog) and even though I’ve been using it for months I still regularly ring up the helpline as it is far from intuitive.