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Small Voluntary Organisations’ adoption and use of tech: Phase Two

The purpose of a second phase of this research is to enhance and improve support and funding practices for the use of tech by small voluntary organisations (SVOs). In partnership with CAST, this follow-up piece of work will build on Start Somewhere. We are researching the key moments in the process of adoption and use of tech within SVOs.

 

Covid-19 has accelerated the need and necessity for voluntary organisations of all sizes to engage with tech. CAST and IVAR are hosting a series of digital support sessions with SVOs. These peer-to-peer learning sessions aim to support, reassure and inspire individuals within SVOs. We will gather ideas and stories of how SVOs are responding to change and practical examples of how they are embracing digital. We are interested in how SVOs’ adoption and use of tech has progressed in light of Covid-19, and we are hoping to learn about emergency responses that have specifically encompassed tech, as well as what’s helped or hindered progress in relation to external support and funding.

 

We will also be hosting separate sessions with digital support providers and funders. These sessions will explore:

 

  • What has the current situation taught us about the needs of SVOs with regards to digital support?

     

  • In what ways has the digital ecosystem responded and evolved?

     

  • What does it tell us about the kind of digital support the sector will need in six months/ 1 year’s time?

     

  • What are the implications for funding tech?

     

  • What elements of this support can be transferred to non-emergency settings (e.g. funder activity and behaviour that may have led to new tech initiatives within funded organisations)?

     

IVAR and CAST with develop collective messages for SVOs and funders about the current state of the digital ecosystem and longer term recovery.

If you have any questions or for further information please contact annie@ivar.org.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: 

  • Barnardo’s Scotland
  • Beatfreeks
  • City Bridge Trust
  • Comic Relief
  • The Community Foundation for Northern Ireland
  • Corra Foundation
  • Counselling All Nations Services
  • Esmée Fairbairn Foundation
  • London Funders
  • Maslaha
  • The Mercer’s Company
  • One25
  • Refugee Action
  • The Tudor Trust
  • Ubele Initiative
  • United St Saviour’s Charity
  • Unlock

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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