When this work began, the UK had had nearly a decade of austerity, which had stripped out much of the social infrastructure and further entrenched social issues for many communities, leading to people our charity partners were supporting, presenting with greater complexity of need. Public services were under pressure, just as small charities were. Trends in outsourcing of services had led to a greater reliance on larger scale commissioning processes, moving away from earlier practices (e.g. by local authorities) of grant funding the VCSE sector. This reduced trust, and damaged relationships in a way that created a challenging space for collaboration, just when collaboration was really needed in order to identify how to do more with less. Public sector and philanthropic spend was typically siloed, a lack of space for strategic thinking created services that were not necessarily effective in helping people move on in their lives, and there was in many cases duplication and a confusing web of services people might be engaged with. There were significant power dynamics at play between communities, different parts of the VCSE sector, statutory services, strategic boards and politicians.
We sought to bring people together from across sectors and organisations and to create a space to think about doing differently. For Lloyds Bank Foundation, the focus of this work is long term and crucially is not focused on grant funding but rather on resourcing the process of bringing about change in this way. We wanted to work with a small number of local areas, and to learn with them about what it takes to bring about system change. We had a number of key principles and assumptions at the outset:
- Relationships are absolutely key – both our approach being relational and seeking to get to know people but also that relationships between people, organisations and sectors are crucial and that our practice would have to support building positive relationships. We undertook training in restorative practice with a view to incorporating thinking on how to build and maintain positive constructive relationships and, when things have gone wrong, to restore them.
- Context – every community is different and it is essential to get to know the context locally
- Strengths based – engaging with a building on the existing strengths in a local area
- Thinking about power – being mindful of and considering power and power relationships, especially when bringing different organisations and sectors together.
- Involving the community and people using services in helping to determine what is needed and what change is necessary – we have used a service design methodology
- Long term – we recognized that this work would take time and we would stay with it through challenging times as long as we could see it was progressing.
- We will learn and develop as we go – we have a developmental evaluator and learning partner who is helping us and the communities to learn from the work as we go, so that we can change our practice or shift our approach if necessary. We want to share what we learn together with the six communities, with a wider audience so that others can use it.
We created an infographic to demonstrate these approaches and the evidence base.
We have involved all actors in a place who could be involved in the resource, design or delivery of services:
- Public sector: local government, commissioners, Clinical Commissioning Groups, emerging Integrated Care systems, Police and Crime Commissioners, schools, probation service, police, primary healthcare services, mental health services
- VCSE sector: infrastructure organisations, small charities delivering services, small volunteer led groups, larger charities and local branches of national charities
- The local community, including people with lived experience and people using services
- Private sector: Local Enterprise Partnerships, small business, local chambers of commerce
- Funders: other local trusts and foundations
- Groups and networks: Health and Wellbeing Boards, Local Strategic Partnerships, VCSE networks and assemblies, Local Enterprise Partnerships; in Wales – Public Service Boards, Regional Partnerships Boards, Health boards
We sought to bring people together from across sectors and organisations and to create a space to think about doing differently. We have particularly emphasised the importance of relationships as a foundation of this work and have employed particular approaches to help build, maintain and restore relationships such as restorative practice. We have also sought to influence the use of resources, recognising that even though there is less funding available across the board, there are still significant funds, and collaboration and connection to communities is needed to ensure that these funds are spent in effective ways, ensuring that the services they fund meet people’s needs. We are working to influence the way services respond to people’s needs, by using a service design methodology which is a creative and adaptive model for bringing in the experience of people using services to help to reshape them. Significantly, we are not offering grants or traditional funding, but are resourcing the process, which helps to address the power dynamics we might have as a funder
Insights / Advice to Peers
We are still very much in the middle of this piece of work and are learning as we go. So far our three pieces of advice are as follows
- Recognise your power – Foundations hold a significant and unique opportunity to create a space for doing differently in the long term
- Respond to context and be flexible
- Be ready to learn and be humble – don’t come with all the answers but be prepared to ‘do with’ partners in the work – share power
Videos made during COVID crisis:
Harriet Ballance, People and Communities Lead, Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales; firstname.lastname@example.org