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Covid-19 Response Work

Are you a VCSE leader?

We’re running 90 minute peer support sessions to share and explore the challenges you are currently facing. These are for up to 12 leaders at a time, and you can sign up here.

 

Do you fund or support VCSE organisations?

 

We are producing regular briefings on the challenges faced by VCSE organisations, and what support they need. The first was published on 9 April 2020.

 

These briefings are based on the challenges raised in the peer support sessions we are running. So far, these have been attended by over 180 leaders representing 17 fields and based across the UK.

 

Sustaining simplified funding beyond the Covid-19 crisis

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. For that to happen, they need to be ruthlessly clear about the purpose and necessity of their processes. The positive examples that we have seen – those described in The possible, not the perfect and, more recently, in our account of the Tudor Trust’s work in Hartlepool and in our collaboration with Esmée Fairbairn Foundation on better reporting – weren’t rushed or haphazard. Their preparation and execution were characterised by care, attention to detail and great sensitivity. But, critically, they were nimble and proportionate, sending a clear signal to others about what is possible when you are prepared to ‘step outside the normal’.

 

In the current context, as funders and voluntary organisations grapple with uncertainty, anxiety and complexity, we are all having do things differently. Many funders are seeking to provide assurance to their grantees through the continuing upheaval and disruption. Powerful tools include converting and committing to unrestricted funding – immediately and at least for the medium term – and offering extensions on grants ending in the next twelve months.

 

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, IVAR is launching a Learning Review to identify opportunities for sustainable adaptations and innovations to funding processes and practices. We will be capturing and distilling the key features and aspects of funder responses to the Covid-19 crisis, before turning our attention to options for longer-term adaptations and innovations to funding behaviours and processes, and supporting funders with implementation – paying particular attention to the needs of VCSE organisations adversely affected by systemic barriers and burdensome practices.

This work is in partnership with: 

Logo Board - Learning Review

Trust, power and collaboration: Funding relationships

Newcastle Business School (part of the University of Northumbria) is drawing together case studies on the way people and organisations are approaching better ways to understand local commissioning processes and manage performance. Complexity-informed practice looks at different forms of accountability and has a focus on building a healthy system, developing trust and relationships, joint learning and capturing the effects on users of services.

IVAR has been funded by Tudor Trust to support and add value to this research by extending its scope to include a specific focus on Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) organisations. The overarching aim of this additional work is to consider the implications and requirements (e.g. skills and relationships) of new and different approaches to commissioning for VCS organisations. We will facilitate a series of conversations with VCS organisations, which we expect to focus on the themes of trust, power and collaboration.

This will contribute to a more complete picture of what is needed to ensure systems work for the people they are designed to serve, both locally and nationally.

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

Thinking about… risk

Funded by the IVAR Research Development Fund, in partnership with William Grant Foundation.

IVAR research on funding practices and grant making processes has brought to light issues of concern to many funders, relating both to risk management and appetite for taking risks. In particular, our recent work suggests that there can be a lack of alignment within trusts and foundations in terms of understanding ‘what risk means to us’ and how it is best measured and mitigated. This can be especially marked in relation to the funding of smaller organisations who, in an operating environment characterised by turbulence and uncertainty, continue to engage with society’s hardest to reach groups, working holistically and in ways that are responsive to different contexts, with income trajectories that remain volatile.

Five funders (The National Lottery Community Fund, United St Saviour’s Charity, City Bridge Trust, Blagrave Trust, Community Foundation for Northern Ireland) agreed to take part in the research, which explored what this operating environment requires from funders in terms of risk culture and processes. We are considered risk in relation to the application, assessment and decision making stages of grant making, in order to draw out possible ways in which funders might rethink and reframe ‘risk’. 

We have developed a framework which we are now looking for funders to help us test, here

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