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Sharing power in grant-making

How do we shift the power in grant-making to communities? By making steps to share it.

Discover how Comic Relief approached the dynamics of power in the first phase of their intermediary funding programme: Shift the Power. These resources are aimed at funders, in particular intermediary funders and national/local funders working with intermediaries, who are considering questions of power in grant-making: who has it, and how it can be shared.

More information: 

Shift the Power is an intermediary funding programme run by Comic Relief. It aims to shift the power in grant-making to communities and get more funding to small grassroots organisations and communities across the UK, and to trial a trust-based and ‘relational’ approach to devolved grant-making.

Comic Relief partnered with four intermediary funders; Community Foundation for Northern Ireland (CFNI), Corra Foundation in Scotland, Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA), and Groundwork UK in England, who acted as the intermediaries between Comic Relief and local communities.

The report paper Sharing power in grant-making reflects on the collective learning of Comic Relief and the funders during the first phase of the programme, drawing on the insights collected by IVAR as a Learning Partner, working alongside Comic Relief and the intermediary funders

We have also included case studies from the four intermediary funders in the paper Sharing power with intermediary funders to delve into the approaches and learning for each funder. 

Image credits: We are thankful to the intermediary funders and their grantees for giving us permissions to use their logos and imagery (where applicable) for this project. 

Building forward differently

Eddie McConnell – Chief Executive of Down’s Syndrome Scotland –  on ‘building forward differently’ : a reflection from the Planning in uncertainty peer support sessions by Corra Foundation and IVAR. 

It’s 18 months since we ushered everyone home and locked the door of our office in Edinburgh. We haven’t been back since.

And yet, like so many in our sector, we haven’t been busier, and we haven’t drawn breath. While this villainous virus took hold and wreaked havoc in families and communities, charities — the length and breadth of the UK — stepped forward and stepped up. This is what we do.

Individually and at pace, we remodelled our service delivery in response to the unprecedented need for support. Collectively, we were a vital component of the national response to the emergency. By putting the needs others first, we saved lives and we protected the NHS.

As we re-open society with restriction lifts, we have a choice. Either we can return to how things were pre-COVID, or we can start anew.

We can leave behind, forever, the woeful world of competing interests: where power and control were vested in the hands of a few to the detriment of so many, and boundaries preserved hierarchies and extinguished innovation. We can recognise what can be achieved through deep collaboration, respect and trust in one another’s abilities and purpose.

Ultimately, what matters is what works, evidenced in the response of so many charities and charity workers throughout the pandemic.

I have no desire to ‘build back better’; I’m not even sure what that means. I am more motivated and inspired to ‘build forward differently’. This is the moment for leaders across the third sector to be big, bold and brave — it’s time to put third sector first: #ThirdSectorFirst.

What good looks like: Example of cross-sector working in Pennine

In Lancashire and South Cumbria, Pennine Lancashire is often cited as an example of good practice in cross-sector working in the design and delivery of health and care services. It is a health and care improvement programme led by health, public sector and voluntary, community, faith and social enterprise sector (VCFSE) colleagues to improve the health and care system in Pennine Lancashire. Here we reflect on what we have learnt from our experiences of collaborating on this programme, in particular around the social prescribing agenda. We recognise that we haven’t got everything right yet, and much work is still to be done, but we hope that by sharing our experience it will contribute to wider discussions about what it means to develop meaningful cross-sector collaboration.

Over time, VCFSE and health sector colleagues in East Lancashire have developed a way of working that shows how being well positioned in the community and having good relationships enables a strong foundation. This has been highlighted in our social prescribing approach that supports people to make changes that improve their own health. The key enablers have been:

1. History of shared working

Our relationships have been solid for a long time and are well embedded. In order to be effective, local structures – e.g. Neighbourhood Teams – and programmes of work – e.g. The Better Care Fund and Community Safety Partnerships – required good partnership working. In such collaborations the voluntary sector feels like an equal partner and, while there is variation from region to region, overall, the sector feels they are sitting at the right tables. This has created a movement of cross-sector partnerships to support the health and social care agenda. We see the VCFSE sector as strong, thriving, flexible, open and passionate about local people and supporting them.

2. Motivation to form relationships

It comes down to our sheer determination not to be left behind. For us in the VCFSE sector, it has always been about the determination to deliver. ‘If we say we’ll do it, no matter the blood, sweat and tears, we’ll make sure it is done so that nobody can come back and say you didn’t do what you said you’d do’.

3. Strong local infrastructure

Structures like Primary Care Neighbourhoods (PCNs) and Integrated Neighbourhood Teams (INTs) have been key. They support integration and provide a space for the VCFSE to demonstrate what they can deliver, as well as reversing the challenge of primary care not knowing or understanding what the sector delivers. The PCNs and INTs were also key to making sure the voices of both large and small organisations were heard. There was a conscious decision to use the word ‘neighbourhoods’ as it conveys a ‘network plus’ approach, meaning it goes beyond just a network to involve communities and neighbourhoods in health and care conversations. Operationally, VCFSE partners are embedded in those structures, enabling the sector to have a strategic voice.

4. Having a common goal

We have tried to move toward being a whole system rather than individual organisations with separate goals. We also recognise that it is important to allow space for different roles within the common goal, and for each person to see how they fit together in the mosaic of things. For example, the VCFSE sector is better placed to engage with communities and understand their priorities, while the PCNs provide structures for better communication. However, everyone must also have sight of the bigger picture and understand how these different roles fit together.

5. Open and flexible commissioning

We have seen what happens when commissioning is open and flexible. Our ambition is to grow this approach, allowing the sector to do what it does best, without being heavy-handed and prescriptive. Two factors that have enabled this way of commissioning are:

  • Involving the VCFSE at a strategic level: Political leadership has supported decisions to involve the VCFSE sector in strategic decision-making.

  • Honest communication: Being transparent and sharing challenges; for example, the potential impact of cuts to public funding. 

6. Getting the relationship right with Primary Care Neighbourhoods (PCNs): 

While the above enablers have helped, when we started working with PCNs, VCFSE colleagues didn’t always feel their voice was represented. However, we were able to build on existing relationships with the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and local authority, and the appointment of Social Prescribing Link Workers has enabled better links into services that can provide support. As the PCNs and partnership working has grown, Clinicians and PCN Clinical Directors are also visibly more involved than they were at the start, and this provides a focus to our relationships and a central contact point in a PCN (that avoids us trying to contact many busy GPs). These relationships feed into the Primary Care Neighbourhood structures, making the connections easier and communication more efficient.

Next steps

The picture is positive, but there is always room for improvement and more that still needs to be done to enable our partnerships to do more. Having made progress, we now need to ensure that the following areas of progress are maintained and strengthened:

  • Continuing to involve VCFSE colleagues at an earlier stage: We’d like to continue to see VCFSE colleagues brought in right at the beginning of the local programme or issue that we’re seeking to respond to, rather than partway through.

  • Increased understanding of breadth and quality of activities delivered by the VCFSE: There remains a risk that the VCFSE sector is seen only as delivering ‘lower level’ activities when there are many high-end services they deliver for vulnerable people and those with complex needs.

  • Increased representation for smaller organisations: With different models in place across the area and small organisations delivering high-end services for vulnerable communities, social prescribing is central to joining up health priorities with the voluntary sector. Social prescribing makes sure that smaller organisations are brought into discussions and there is equity at the table. It is important to ensure better resources are included for them in strategic level discussions. Having a good structure in place will help with engagement, making sure the voices of small organisations are heard.   

  • Continuing to make the best use of the VCFSE role at PCN meetings: It is important, more now than ever, to think about a way of partnership working that sees collaboration between the health and VCFSE sector within prevailing structures in the system is more involved. This way can demonstrate what the VCFSE sector can deliver so that those acting as sector representatives are supported more proactively, and can use these places and forums well to maximise the opportunity.

  • Maintaining a shared vision: With the PCNs taking a role in decision making around priorities, action planning and partnership development, it is important to have a shared vision of what success looks like in communities.

What good looks like

What good looks like 1.
What good looks like 2.



Bringing together VCFSEs and PCNs 

In Lancashire and South Cumbria, statutory and voluntary sector professionals have been working together to design, test and deliver improved health outcomes for local people. IVAR, as a Learning Partner, have supported the Lancashire and South Cumbria Integrated Care System to create and sustain meaningful connections in hyper-local, cross-sector partnerships within the Integrated Care System (ICS), as a part of the Test, Learn & Review initiative. Read more about the work and access resources, here. [add link – http://www.ivar.org.uk/vcfse-pcn-together-for-local-health/  when Live] 



Authors

This blog was authored by the following individuals in the Healthier Pennine Lancashire partnership. Please contact them for more information about their work.  

  • Vicky Shepherd, Chief Executive, Age UK Blackburn with Darwen – Vicky.Shepherd@ageukbwd.org.uk

  • Angela Allen, CEO, Spring North – angela.allen@springnorth.org.uk 

  • Elaine Barker, Chief Officer, Hyndburn & Ribble Valley Council for Voluntary Service – Elaine.Barker@hrv-cvs.org.uk

  • Christine Blythe, NASP north West lead coordinator, Burnley, Pendle and Rossendale Council for Voluntary Service (BPRCVS)

  • Andrea Dixon, Integration & Neighbourhood Lead, Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council – Andrea.Dixon@BLACKBURN.GOV.UK

  • Tim Birch, Community Support Unit Manager, Prevention, Neighbourhoods and Learning Service, Adult Services and Prevention Department, Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council

Talking points for cross-sector partnerships

Developed through Lancashire and South Cumbria’s test and learn initiative: ‘Talking points for cross-sector partnerships’.

In Lancashire and South Cumbria, statutory and voluntary sector professionals have been working together to design, test and deliver improved health outcomes for local people. These talking points can help to kick-start exploratory conversations about cross-sector partnership working, and demonstrate the potential value of working together. 

Download the resource

How to build an effective partnership

Developed through Lancashire and South Cumbria’s test and learn initiative: ‘How to build an effective partnership’.

In Lancashire and South Cumbria, statutory and voluntary sector professionals have been working together to design, test and deliver improved health outcomes for local people. We’ve identified nine puzzle pieces for creating connections that enable meaningful collaboration.

Download the resource

A Community Action Network – West End, Morecambe Bay

Since January 2020, the Institute for Voluntary Action Research (IVAR) has been supporting the Lancashire & South Cumbria Health and Care System on a test and learn initiative. Working at a place-based level, we looked at ways to draw on local leadership and the power and capacity of communities to improve their own health and wellbeing – in the context of the changing role of commissioning, with a more community-centred focus in the Integrated Care System (ICS).

The West End (Morecambe Bay) vision has been to find ways to improve local lives through sharing resources, seeking investment, supporting each other and, most importantly, involving local people in the conversations and decisions that affect them. In this case study, we review the journey so far, lessons learnt and the next steps forward. Not only is this a reflective document for the ICS in Lancashire and South Cumbria and the Community Action Network set up in the West End (Morecambe Bay), but inspiration for other locales developing and progressing cross-sector partnerships. 

To speak with IVAR about commissioning a project or for more information on cross-sector partnerships, please contact us on enquiries@ivar.org.uk 

For more information on this case study, please contact:

Yakub Patel – Chief Executive Officer of the Lancaster District Community and Voluntary Solutions –  yakpatel@lancastercvs.org.uk  

Experimenting and learning during a crisis: A voluntary sector perspective

These precarious times have created mounting pressures, huge challenges and uncertainty for the voluntary sector. At the same time, opportunities have opened up for voluntary organisations to explore and adopt new and different behaviours and relationships. For some, ‘Human Learning Systems’ practices have catalysed tangible improvements and advances across four elements of organisational life:

Collaborative relationships

 

There has been growing emphasis on working together as the most effective way of responding quickly to the changing needs and growing demands of individuals and communities. A shared sense of urgency, more accessible and immediate forms of communication, and a stripping away of bureaucratic red tape have enabled cross-sector partners to come together on a more equal footing. And a spirit of collective endeavour has opened people’s eyes to the value of varied expertise, experience and knowledge. This sense of common purpose has helped to build rapport, strengthen bonds, challenge norms and redress power imbalances.

Adaptation and experimentation

There was no rehearsal for the pandemic: it shook everyone to the core and asked questions for which there were few, if any, obvious answers. Unexpectedly, these uncharted waters created the conditions for being more experimental, trialling new ways of working, and testing assumptions behind long-established practices. Everything was up for grabs; there were no one-size-fits-all solutions. This opened up space for people to show ‘collective bravery’ and take risks, learning and adapting through more iterative approaches.

Distributed leadership

Leaders have taken on huge responsibilities, regularly making tough decisions to look after the safety and welfare of their workforce and service users, at the same time as living through a pandemic themselves. Although leaders have retained a breadth of responsibilities as the nodal point in their organisations, circumstances have required them to give up elements of power and control by delegating some responsibilities, trusting other staff to do what is best for people accessing services, using their judgement to make and take decisions. This shift towards more distributed leadership has heightened team morale, as well as enhancing job satisfaction.

Being human and working with emotions in voluntary sector organisations

We are all feeling the emotional demands of living through a pandemic, not least the blurring of home and work life. Staff are feeling exhausted, sensitive and receptive to tensions that might normally have been brushed off. This can have a knock-on effect by creating uncomfortable and tense work dynamics. In response, leaders have adopted more human approaches, for example, by offering additional coaching or support sessions; building self-care into the working day; and through transparent and regular communication.

Three commitments 

 

Despite these advances and innovations, the risk of reverting to previous, more closed and insular ways of working is evident. To ensure that this is transformative moment, rather than a brief hiatus, attention will need to be paid to three commitments:

  • Ensuring that decision-making spaces continue to be accessible and available to different stakeholders, with a premium on involving and respecting the value of diverse expertise and knowledge when responding to complex needs.

  • Learning together, in real time, as a way of building trusting relationships and tackling competitive behaviour.

  • Acknowledging and addressing the emotional demands from working in this way, and embedding reflective and supportive practices to guard against burnout.


Download the e-book

We’re proud to be involved with the Human Learning Systems collaborative. You can read more about human learning systems approaches, and our chapter, in the new e-book. Download it here.


A social prescribing network in the Fylde coast

Since January 2020, the Institute for Voluntary Action Research (IVAR) has been supporting the Lancashire & South Cumbria Health and Care System on a test and learn initiative. Working at a place-based level, we looked at ways to draw on local leadership and the power and capacity of communities to improve their own health and wellbeing – in the context of the changing role of commissioning, with a more community-centred focus in the Integrated Care System (ICS).

In the Fylde Coast, the focus of the Test & Learn initiative was on the cross-sector gap where colleagues in Primary Care and the Voluntary Community Faith Social Enterprises (VCFSE) did not cross paths often, and on the need for a social prescribing community that works together. In response, a small steering group formed, combining the expertise and experience across the health and care systems. In this case study, we review the journey so far, participant feedback, what success looks like and the next steps forward. Not only is this a reflective document for the ICS in Lancashire and South Cumbria, but inspiration for other locales developing and progressing cross-sector partnerships. 

To speak with IVAR about commissioning a project or for more information on cross-sector partnerships, please contact us on enquiries@ivar.org.uk 

For more information on this case study, please contact:

 Tracy Hopkins – VCFSE leader-  tracy.hopkins@blackpoolcab.org.uk 

Debbie Lagette – Social Prescribing Link Worker – deborah.lagette@nhs.net

The contribution and value of the VCSE sector in East Sussex

This report explores the value and contribution of the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector in East Sussex – including how the sector responded to Covid-19 and how people see the sector’s future. As well as a detailed look at the positive contribution organisations are making in East Sussex specifically, we offer an interesting perspective on how to present the value of the voluntary sector in a way that goes beyond traditional ‘impact’ or economic metrics; and explores how funders, the public sector and VCSEs can best support each other in the future.

 

We hope this work informs both future thinking about cross-sector collaboration in East Sussex; and how other local authorities consider the contribution and value of the voluntary sector. 

You can read highlights from this report and find out more about how commissioners and VCSE organisations can work together here

The STAGE Partnership: Learning and Legacy

In our latest report, we explore a recent partnership between small, medium and large charities who provide specialist women’s services across the North East, led by Changing Lives. It is a positive story of a partnership in action – sharing not only success factors, but also a frank account of the challenges and measures put in place for the partnership to grow together and establish a legacy. We hope this provides inspiration for other charities interested in working together.

I wanted to make sure that there are no blind spots and there is honesty. This is so important now, as the sustainability of so many charities is challenged – it was ever thus, but it is seriously exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. It is the responsibility of us all to do everything we can to sustain a diverse and thriving sector.’

Laura Seebohm – Executive Director of External Affairs at Changing Lives.