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Tracking Transforming Rehabilitation Probation reforms

IVAR is working with Clinks to understand the new probation model, Transforming Rehabilitation, due to be introduced in June 2021. This policy reform intends on involving the voluntary sector in the delivery of services for people under probation supervision.


In partnership with Sheffield Hallam and Wolverhampton University we will use a survey and qualitative case studies to understand the role of the voluntary sector in the new probation model, and specifically, the impact of the commissioning model on organisations’ ability to engage with the new probation program. This will be used to inform future procurement practices both in the commissioning of post day one services and beyond the probation service.

Connecting Health Communities

We are providing facilitation support for cross-sector groups to kick-start or sustain partnerships that deliver improved health outcomes for vulnerable groups, reducing the health inequalities they face.


We’ve been supporting cross-sector partnerships to deliver improved health outcomes for 15 years – most recently through Building health partnerships and Transforming healthcare together.


Through our Connecting health communities initiative, we will support eight partnerships over 3 years – in two waves of 18 months each.


We will also provide six one-off facilitated workshops and two peer learning events each year of this three-year initiative.


We have four high-level aspirations:

  1. People with experience of health inequality are meaningfully involved in the co-design and co-production of health and care in and for their communities.
  2. People and communities with experience of health inequality are trusted partners in decision-making about their health and wellbeing.
  3. Activities that help people stay well and healthy happen in spaces and ways that communities feel ownership of.
  4. Voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations are recognised, valued and resourced to connect people in communities with each other for their health and wellbeing.


Connecting health communities is funded by the National Lottery Community Fund; and supported by an advisory group with representation from NHS England and Improvement, people with experience of cross-sector partnership working and people who support those experiencing health inequalities.

Tudor Learning Support

IVAR is working with staff and Trustees at Tudor Trust to support their work embedding a learning culture within the organisation. Our aim is to help Tudor Trust continue to identify opportunities to strengthen their approach to supporting positive change in communities.


IVAR’s role involves a combination of facilitating internal reflective discussions with staff and trustees as well as some primary data collection on specific topics. For example, we will be leading an evaluation of Tudor Trust’s Wellbeing grants.

Peer support for leaders of small charities in Yorkshire and Humber

IVAR is facilitating a Yorkshire & Humber region peer support network. The network is specifically for leaders of local VCSE groups that work with the most marginalised communities and who typically also have less access to funding and support.


The charity leaders involved are taking part in a series of 90 minute, facilitated, online peer support sessions. These are a safe space to share experiences and challenges. They are also an opportunity to articulate to local and national funders the ways in which they can better support them. 

Legacy of the Big Lunch

Eden Project Communities recently appointed IVAR to carry out research that explores the long-term impact of The Big Lunch on both individuals and communities.


The research will learn about the transformative effect of The Big Lunch programme and the range of factors that contribute to making this impact possible. We will also explore the role of The Big Lunch as a facilitator of long-term social and environmental impact during the remainder of the Big Lunch programme and beyond.


We will adopt a mixed method approach – including a desk-based review, qualitative interviews, facilitated workshops, an online survey and a selection of in-depth case studies across the four countries.

Open and trusting grant-making

Over the last decade there has been much talk of funders – particularly trusts and foundations – trying to become less burdensome, more straightforward and quicker in their dealings with applicants and grantees. The coronavirus pandemic has turbocharged this effort demonstrating what is possible when we are all forced to ‘step outside the normal’. The early days of the emergency saw unprecedented levels of responsiveness and flexibility from many funders, who showed themselves to be ready to streamline applications; make decisions at speed; collaborate with others; give unrestricted funding; broker access to expertise, and radically reduce reporting requirements.


Although the shock of the early months of the pandemic is waning, it is replaced by a growing awareness of how long the road ahead may be. Voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) organisations and funders alike face an extended period of uncertainty, anxiety and complexity that will not allow any of us to slip back with relief into ‘business as usual.’ We hope this will enable a permanent transformation in the relationship between the funder and the funded, reflecting a culture of mutuality, of shared endeavour towards the common good.


IVAR has launched a learning review in partnership with London Funders and a small group of UK foundations and charities who are ambitious for change. We recognise that the moment demands it. Not just the need for a simpler philanthropy, one that can reflect and accommodate the uncertainty of action to achieve change in complexity. But also a respectful philanthropy, one that recognises that applicants and grantees have assets – activities, services, reach, trust, legitimacy, practice, knowledge, expertise, energy and passion – that have intrinsic value and significance. And an inclusive philanthropy, one that is resolved to rise to the challenge of breaking down the systemic barriers that exclude and disadvantage so many.


IVAR’s learning review is one part of a growing effort to build a new culture of respect and trust between foundations and VCSE organisations and to embed this culture firmly in day to day practice. The learning review has several strands of activity and will continue to evolve and iterate as new needs emerge. 

Open and trusting grant-making

While it may be too soon for definitive answers on long-term strategy, there is a real opportunity for a more collaborative approach to rethinking the future and, in particular, funding practices, many of which may no longer be fit for purpose. In partnership with a group of funders and small charities from across the UK, we have developed eight commitments to open and trusting grant-making and are now asking funders to sign up and join our community of practice. 



Applications and assessments

We know that the changes some foundations made in their immediate responses to the pandemic have been received by organisations applying for funding very positively. Our call for open and trusting grant-making captures many of the changes which charities and funders want to hold onto. There remain, however, areas that need deeper exploration and concerted effort. So, alongside our call to action, we are exploring together what a genuine culture change – towards a culture of respect and trust – needs to look like in practice for applications and assessment processes, drawing on examples from funders and listening to the needs and experiences of charities.


Core funding

IVAR’s 2013 report ‘Thinking about Core Funding” addressed the case for core funding; the challenges of doing so; and making it work. Eight years on, in the midst of a pandemic with massive social and economic consequences now and to come, VSOs face a much more radical uncertainty – of demand, resources, the ecology of organisations and support within which they work; and potential waves of disruption and restrictions.  All these magnify the  importance of core funding; what charities need most is flexible (ideally unrestricted) core funding so they can direct money quickly to where it is most needed, and adapt as situations change. Building on Thinking about… core funding, we will engage with funders who have adopted core funding and those who have not – to find out what obstacles the latter perceive in offering core funding, and how those might be overcome.

This work is in partnership with: 

Logo Board - Learning Review

Learning Partner to the Test, Learn & Review Initiative – exploring voluntary and faith sector relationships with Primary Care Networks (PCNs) in neighbourhoods

IVAR will work as a Learning Partner to the Lancashire and South Cumbria Integrated Care System, alongside voluntary, community, faith and social enterprise sector (VCFSE) partners and Primary Care Networks (PCNs) in five areas, namely Central Lancashire, Pennine, Blackpool Wyre & Fylde, West Lancashire and Morecombe Bay/South Cumbria to facilitate emerging learning across a range of partners as part of the Test, Learn & Review initiative.


This initiative aims to look at ways to harness the leadership, power and capacity of communities to improve their own health and wellbeing. This in the context of the changing role of commissioning with a more community centred focus, in a future Integrated Care System (ICS).


This will involve two main areas of work:


  • Facilitate a learning process amongst this group of VCFSE partners, PCNs and Lancashire and South Cumbria ICS around topics of common interest to the group. IVAR will provide bespoke learning support to the five areas to help them embed this initiative.


  • Share learning from this experience of the five neighbourhoods and show case it for all other primary care networks in the Lancashire and South Cumbria footprint

Evaluation and Learning Partner to the Community Leadership Academy

Local Trust has funded Just Ideas and IVAR to work alongside the new three year Community Leadership Academy in a collaborative and creative way throughout its lifetime. The Community Leadership Academy provides a unique mix of support, training and personal development to Big Local residents making their neighbourhoods better places to live.


Just Ideas and IVAR will together undertake the role of Evaluation and Learning Support Partner throughout this programme. We will help Local Trust learn how best to develop leadership within Big Local and use creative methods to reflect on the process and track change.  


Created by Local Trust in partnership with Koreo, the Young Foundation and Northern Soul, the Community Leadership Academy provides structured support for community-led change as part of the Big Local programme and aims to increase understanding and investment in community leadership skills.


The Community Leadership Academy consists of a range of individual and group sessions, including personal coaching, to work on their own strengths and leadership style, develop leadership in others and set strategy.


Running from 2020-21 it is designed to identify and support local residents so they are equipped to shape the future of their communities.


The Community Leadership Academy is a Big Local support offer. Providing at least £1m to each of 150 communities in England,  Big Local is funded by The National Lottery Community Fund and managed by Local Trust.


Learning partner for Comic Relief intermediary funding

IVAR will work with Comic Relief as the Learning Partner for their work with intermediary funders in the UK to support reflection and learning of their processes and experiences. We will support Comic Relief and its partners to question, learn from and adapt the work in real time. In practice, ‘working alongside’ will include acting as a sounding board; sense-making; synthesising both informal and formal data; and facilitating group conversations. Given the exploratory and innovative nature of this initiative, IVAR will ensure that it creates a space within which it feels safe to share, challenge and question – in part, that will require careful preliminary thought about the appropriate role for Comic Relief in the process. The aim will be to create relationships of trust that allow for candid dialogue outside of the constraints of grant management.

This will involve two main areas of work:
  • Facilitate a learning process amongst this group of intermediary funders and Comic Relief around topics of common interest to the group
  • Support Comic Relief to reflect on and test some of the assumptions that underpin our approach to working with intermediary funders

Connecting for Change

Help on Your Doorstep aims to improve the health and wellbeing of people in Islington, especially those who are vulnerable and isolated. The programme aims to work with residents to find solutions to the issues which make life difficult, strengthen communities to do more for themselves and enable people to improve their life chances. IVAR has been appointed to conduct a four year evaluation on the Connecting for Change programme to assess its effectiveness. The approach will be formative, collaborative and aimed at informing Help on Your Doorstep’s future activity, as well as generating learning for relevant partners in Islington and the broader social sector.