We’ve been facilitating cross-sector partnerships to develop practical responses to local issues for over 18 years. We have enabled groups to reach their most isolated and vulnerable community members, ensuring that services meet local needs.
This page shares our learning about how voluntary organisations and local systems can work together to engage with complexity and achieve change: from co-production in Primary Care Networks (PCNs); to sharing learning across the Integrated Care System (ICS).
We explored why uptake was low amongst culturally and ethnically diverse communities in East Sussex.
We worked with three rural communities in North Yorkshire address transport issues.
We supported Townships Primary Care Network in Hackenthorpe, Sheffield, to take a partnership approach.
We engaged older people in the Wirral to inform the design of better, more relevant local healthcare services.
Read the full report sharing these stories that illustrate the power of community-led health service design.
Connecting Health Communities involves activities for a ‘steering group’ and a wider ‘partnership group’ as described below:
The model that we use for Connecting Health Communities is built around a deep commitment to listening and collaboration. We aim to address health inequalities by bringing together people with lived experience, charities, the NHS and local authorities to co-design solutions. We involve around 100 people in each area, and we prioritise:
We create space for the building blocks of partnership working by:
Our entry point is to champion, promote and enable the voluntary sector to be a valued and influential partner in health and care design and delivery. We privilege the perspectives and voices of people who are furthest from power in our work.
We have a core offer that we adapt to work for each area we partner with. We notice when things aren’t working and change our approach to meet the needs and circumstances of local partners.
We take an inclusive, fun and human approach – starting with who is in the room, acknowledging emotions and recognising past challenges. We then use creative methods to facilitate difficult, cross-sector conversations which lead to action. This helps to build capacity locally and is itself an act of influencing the local system, by modelling a collaborative approach to problem-solving.
We play a convening role, holding the process and bigger picture for the partnership as collaborative working gets underway:
We’re currently working with four areas: Cheshire East, Dudley, St Helens and Wandsworth.
Cross-sector steering groups have been formed in each area with representation from VCSE leaders, local NHS systems and the local authority. Each of these groups is co-designing a tangible focus for their work to tackle local health inequalities. Involving communities in these initial conversations is crucial, so many have connected with residents before their first partnership session through focus groups, surveys, and informal conversations on the doorstep.
Current thinking in each area:
We support local areas to build partnerships where no meaningful cross-sector relationship exists.
We enable areas with an existing cross-sector partnership to translate good intensions into actionable plans.
We support areas who are already involved in local collaborative working to address challenges on their partnership journey.
Meet some of the people who help to connect health communities.
We are from the kinds of organisations and communities that we seek to serve. Having worked in and around the voluntary sector as volunteers, paid staff, leaders, trustees, teachers and researchers – we understand and care about the distinctiveness and independence of the sector.
We would like to thank the steering groups and partnerships in each area we have worked with. Particular thanks to the Connecting Health Communities 2021-2023 cohort, for sharing photos of yourselves and your work, and to Kirkbymoorside Wellbeing Hub/Phil Taylor Photography.