Alongside our partners IPPR North, we have been working closely with Wigan Council and a wide range of local people and stakeholders – from public sector partners to VCSFE leaders, residents to staff – to understand what has been achieved through the ground-breaking Wigan Deal, which has been so instrumental in leading the way on public service reform, and to co create the future direction of the borough together in the “New Era”. If the Deal was a social contract, based on “we will, you will”, the New Era is about collaboration: what can be achieved together, building on the core values and behaviours that still feel radical today and taking them further together through rebalancing power and focusing on inequality. We can’t wait to share more about this work next year.

As our leadership offer goes from strength to strength, we have been enjoying working with our first cohort of future London local government leaders through the London Leadership Programme, commissioned by London Councils. This programme is about leading across difference in uncertainty, and helps participants develop the skills and behaviours to tackle together the complex policy challenges facing London – like climate justice and systemic racism. 

We’re also delighted to have been appointed for another three years to keep developing and delivering the ground-breaking collaborative leadership programme Leading Greater Essex. In early 2024 we will be launching a programme for health leaders in Sunderland.

Building on the NHSE Place Development Programme we co-delivered last year, we have been working with several ICSs and HCPs to strengthen partnerships, build relationships, embed understanding of population health and strengthen system leadership, including South and West Hertfordshire HCP, West Kent HCP and Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire ICS. We’ve also worked with local authorities in these areas to help them bottom out their contribution to these partnerships and identify local priorities they can help lead alongside NHS partners to make a real difference for residents.

Following on from work in East Sussex around loneliness and connection and alongside our recent review of the county’s debt and advice services, we’re delighted to be working as an Evaluation and Learning Partner to Making it Happen. Making it Happen is an asset-based community development programme, funded by East Sussex County Council and delivered by a partnership of five local VCS organisations, operating across a number of different localities. This year we’ve been focused on co-designing and deploying evaluation methods ‘from the work, through the work’, so evaluation is not an activity in addition to the work, but part of the work itself. We also created the Four Shifts analytical framework setting out the different shifts that need to occur at different levels of the system for community-led asset-based practice to become more widespread. We’ve tested and explored the framework with wider stakeholders at co-designed events and found that it is resonating with people, and there are more events planned next year to explore the Four Shifts with a wider range of stakeholders. Community development workers have praised the framework as an accessible and clear way into the evaluation work. We look forward to continuing our work with the team into the new year and beyond.

Following their experiences of working collaboratively with community organisations and the public during the pandemic, Birmingham City Council wanted to embed a more visible and consistent approach to public participation across the whole organisation – putting the public at the heart of everything BCC does. We worked closely with the newly established Public Participation team to identify existing participation activity, the teams leading it and the methods in use. We then established new spaces for internal collaboration to enable people to share their learning, experience and existing good practice to create a more coordinated and effective council-wide approach. All of our learning was recently published in a Public Participation Vision & Approach which we supplemented with a Public Participation Implementation Guide, advising on how the new approach can be embedded across the council.

As a CIC, we’re not just about delivering projects on the ground with our partners, we also want to share learning that will help others, highlight great work and connect changemakers. Our highlights this year have included:

Over the past year, we have been developing our commissioning offer and piloting our first Commissioning with Communities programme. Delivered in partnership with Ideas Alliance and Co-production Collective, the programme supports commissioners from across the country who want to stretch and develop their practice to make resources work better for communities. Our practical and engaging development programme offers an alternative to traditional commissioning training, reflecting the complex realities of the issues services are trying to address. Building on the success of the pilot, our second cohort is now open for registration – you can find out more and register your interest here.

This year we took a deep breath and synthesised years of reports and frameworks about the components of good collaboration into a short written Guide describing six core foundations and setting out questions people can use to assess the strengths of the their own collaborations:

It’s been brilliant hearing from people that they’ve been using it to help them in their work, from Health and Care Partnerships to mental health collaborations across NHS bodies. We have also been hosting free lunchtime events about each of the six foundations. Please see below for more info.

Following the launch of our Guide to Collaboration, we have been hosting a series of lunchtime events about each of the six foundations, with the final two coming up in the New Year – you can sign up here:

  • Collaborative Infrastructure: Thursday 18th Jan, 12 – 1pm on Zoom
  • Shared Learning: Thursday 29th Feb, 12 – 1pm on Zoom

If you would like to catch up on the conversation so far, you can watch the event recordings and read the summaries on building healthy relationships , building collaborative behaviours and shared purpose & collaborative mindset.
(*the links to recordings of each event are included at the end of each summary.)

“It’s about names not numbers. We can join the dots around people to make services work better – and joining the dots means you have to be highly collaborative”

In June we were delighted to host a free online event with the Mayor of Greater Manchester and colleagues from across the GM system, including GM police and the voluntary sector, to share learning about one of the most mature efforts to collaborate across place, sector and services in the UK. You can read more about the discussion, and watch the recording.

We can’t do any of this without curious, talented, motivated and values-driven people. This year our growing team has been joined by Amanda, Malavika, Sally, Molly, Tara and Ahnaaf, bringing new expertise to our learning and evaluation work and senior voluntary sector experience and bolstering our business development and finance strengths. And we’ve created new roles for two of our team who joined last year, Leigh and Sophia, reflecting the strengths they bring to all our work, and in particular inclusive and creative community and stakeholder engagement. If you are interested in joining us, drop us a line here!

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