Paul Streets: Diversity must be driven by those people we help

For equality, diversity and inclusion to be meaningful, it should run right through a charity’s approach and outlook.

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As a sector we have rightly turned the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion spotlight on ourselves and been found wanting. Various commentators and organisations – including the Association of Charitable Foundations – have pointed to the lack of diversity on the boards of trusts and foundations; and concerns have been raised about the make-up of panels at sector conferences and, more broadly, about the lack of diversity at senior levels in the sector.

But if we look only at what is visible, we see only the tip of the Iceberg. Although what we ‘see’ matters we must focus on ensuring it affects what we ‘do’.

At Lloyds bank Foundation, we recently defined our own commitment to addressing inequalities and promoting greater diversity and inclusion in work, how we do it and how we communicate. We believe that to do this effectively we need to ensure our approach is grounded in the experiences, concerns and challenges of the charities we support and the people they reach.

As part of our journey, we spoke to Alison Moore, chief executive at Refugee Women Connect (RWC), one of our partner charities. It supports women asylum seekers and refugees to help bring about social justice and equality to some of the most vulnerable in society. Moore shared her thoughts on what EDI means to them.

She told us that creating a women-only safe space to begin the process of getting help is essential to RWC. “A concern for us is the wider dispersal that now takes place, meaning asylum seekers will be moved to areas outside of main cities with no support or specialist service providers, putting them at further disadvantage,” says Moore. In response, the charity has expanded its reach and the support it offers in response.

It also gains the input of its service users, some of whom regularly volunteer and provide suggestions for service development. Last year, RWC employed two previous service users who received their status and recently both staff and service users attended the ‘All Women Count’ lobby in Parliament together.

Moore says they found the experience really empowering. “This isn’t just about us as an organisation working to bring about change, but also to create a movement for women refugees and asylum seekers to be part of the debate, to lead on the discussion and to have the tools and resources to fight for their equality,” Moore adds.

Her reflections demonstrate that for EDI to be meaningful, it should run right through a charity’s approach and outlook. It’s also key to improving services.

The women at RWC need more than a women-only space to feel safe: they need the support of a charity that understands and responds to the cross section of the issues they face. The lesson to us all is that it’s not enough to just have the right people in the right places: we must respond to, and be driven by, the needs of those we exist for.

That’s quite a journey for charitable trusts and foundations that often embody the power and privilege of society’s structural inequalities.  But we’re beginning by looking to many of those we fund as exemplars of what it should mean. We hope they hold us to account when we miss the mark.

Lloyds Scholar Beulah: ‘The Foundation does so much more than just award grants’

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Lloyds Scholar Beulah Amponsa

Beulah Amponsa is a Lloyds Scholar – a unique social mobility programme run by Lloyds Banking Group which partners with leading universities across the UK. It offers students from lower income households a complete package of financial support, at least one paid internship, a business mentor and the opportunity to develop their employability skills, boosting future career prospects.

Beulah recently finished a 10-week placement with Lloyds Bank Foundation. Read her blog below:


 

When I found out that I would be interning with the Foundation, I wasn’t too sure what it would involve and the full extent of what they did. I thought that the Foundation was just another division of the bank and that they just give grants to charities.

This might be a common misconception among the general public who are not involved in the sector. Despite having explained it to interns and family members, some didn’t understand what the Foundation does or how integral their role is in the charity sector.

It has now been 10 weeks and I am grasping how crucial the role of the Foundation is in allowing charities to thrive and continue to do the work that they are doing.

So many of the charities that the Foundation aims to support are ones that tackle complex issues that have a substantial impact to those affected and their wider peer groups.

The Foundation continues to enable those working to overcome these issues to make a difference in their communities by putting the needs of these charities at the centre of its work.

I don’t know much about other grant makers, but I know that the amazing work the Foundation does means it can do even more than award grants. They also develop charities beyond covering costs; giving charities the opportunity to gain access to expert Lloyds Banking Group employees, developing their work and boosting their income streams with a view to making small and local charities sustainable.

Whilst here, I conducted research into the attitudes and preferences of Generation Z and  small and medium charities (SMCs), wrote a report and presented my findings. So, in 10 weeks, I have become a researcher, interviewer, survey creator and presenter. I had never done any of those things before this placement.

I have found out that awareness of SMCs is needed among Generation Z but even though that is the case, Gen Z still show an interest in supporting charities in their local communities. Money might not be something they have a lot of, but they do want to give; if not money, then time and they want to give in a way that is convenient and impactful.

My project has given me the opportunity to learn more about my generation, share my learning with others and contribute to the work of the Foundation, the Banking Group and charities.

‘Grantmakers need to be flexible to better support small and local charities’

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Research & Learning Manager for Lloyds Bank Foundation, Alex Van Vliet, reflects on how grantmakers can improve monitoring and reporting to better support small and medium charities.


Running a small charity can feel like a constant balancing act of competing demands and spinning plates. The investment and support of a funder can help, but we can also hinder. Too often our approach to reporting and monitoring become yet another thing to worry about on an ever-growing to-do list.

Last year Lloyds Bank Foundation joined a group of grant-making foundations and grant-funded charities over a series of workshops to think critically about how grant monitoring and reporting works – or sometimes doesn’t. Does it drive accountability? Does it incentivise learning and improvement?

After some candid and challenging discussions, we agreed six principles to make reporting more meaningful and – hopefully –  mutually beneficial:

  1. Funders must explain why they have awarded a grant
  2. Funders and funded organisations are clear about what grant reporting will look like
  3. Funders are clear about the type of relationship they would like to have with the organisations they fund
  4. Funders only ask for information they need and use, and question whether they need bespoke reporting
  5. Funders give feedback on any grant reporting they receive and share their thoughts on the progress of the work
  6. Funders describe what they do with the information they obtain from funded organisations

Signing up to these principles was a timely prompt for the Foundation to reflect on our processes. Do they live up to our values as a grantmaker, to be a partner to the charities we fund?

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Research & Learning Manager for Lloyds Bank Foundation, Alex Van Vliet 

Under our new strategy, we made some significant changes to the way we ask charities to report each year. We started by reducing the amount of bespoke reporting we ask of grantees, instead focusing only on asking them how they have progressed against the objectives they themselves set. We want our monitoring to be based on the same management data that charities use to track their impact or report to their board: measure once, report twice.

In taking this approach we want to recognise each charity we fund tackles a complex social issue in their own way, and our monitoring approach has to value that difference. For example, we know that many of our grantees seek to support people into safe and suitable housing. The way they do that, however, can be as varied as our 700 grantees. For instance:

  • Providing victims of domestic abuse with immediate emergency refuge accommodation
  • Training young people with learning disabilities to learn the skills they need to live independently and sustain a tenancy
  • Providing people moving from rough sleeping into temporary accommodation with the practical support they need to apply for private tenancies

Any one of these would be considered a good outcome for housing – but will be defined, measured and reported in a different way. Being flexible on measurement approaches doesn’t mean that we’re compromising our standards – we set firm thresholds for our outcomes framework. In taking this approach, we are seeking to balance focus on the long-term goal with an open mind on how that might be achieved. In other words, we’re measurement pluralists.

The small and local charities we fund get this implicitly – responding to local context and local need with local knowledge in their DNA.

The small and local charities we fund get this implicitly – responding to local context and local need with local knowledge in their DNA. A charity housing rough sleepers in Doncaster shouldn’t look the same to a charity housing rough sleepers in Dagenham.

To me, this speaks to a broader point about the role of charities in social change. To value civil society – the belief that charities and the voluntary sector can help make change happen in the world – is to recognise we can elicit change in different ways. In other words, we’re change pluralists.

 

Working with Coronation Street and Hollyoaks to break the silence

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Duncan Craig, Chief Executive Officer of Survivors Manchester, writes how his charity is helping to reach out to survivors of male sexual abuse through working with the makers of Coronation Street and Hollyoaks. Producers from both primetime television programmes, watched by millions across the UK, have been working on powerful, groundbreaking storylines in recent years which have helped to break the silence on male sexual abuse. Lloyds Bank Foundation has been supporting the charity since 2017 and awarded its most recent grant worth £40k in February. 


Five years ago, Survivors Manchester worked with production company Lime Pictures and Channel 4 to tell a ground-breaking story on long-running soap Hollyoaks about the rape of one of its characters, John Paul McQueen. While Hollyoaks did cover male sexual abuse in 2002, that was in a late night special whereas this was going to be broadcast in the primetime 6.30pm slot.

No one could have predicted what would have come from that partnership, especially the Government’s announcement of the first ever Male Rape Support fund. I guess in some way we contributed to changing a small corner of the earth.

The relationship with Hollyoaks and its makers, Lime Pictures, remained firm and they were always on call to help us out with raising awareness of the issues affecting male survivors of sexual abuse, rape and sexual exploitation. In fact the actor who played John Paul, James Sutton, became one of our amazing ambassadors and has been a huge supporter of ours over the years.

Working on and being connected to such a powerful story helped Survivors Manchester stick in people’s minds. A few years later the Executive Producer of Coronation Street made contact and asked to meet. One meeting turned into another, a presentation at a story and script conference followed and the result was the incredibly powerful story of the rape of David Platt at the hands of Corrie newcomer Josh Tucker. This storyline touched a nerve with audiences. After the show was broadcast, National Male Survivor Helpline saw a 1700% increase in calls. Our charity also saw a 64% increase in direct requests for support.

The development of David’s story was influenced in part by the real life experience of another of our ambassadors, Sam. Together we read through and commented on scripts, talked to writers, worked with cast members and directors, and ended up in front of many cameras and journalists ourselves as the press took hold of the story.

Seeing the input we had come to life in the longest running soap in the world was incredible but it was the personal stories of men breaking their silence directly because of what they’ve seen on their television screens that we received on social media, on email and even from people directly that had the biggest impact on us as individuals. For me, as a male survivor who set up and now runs a male survivor organisation, whose first ‘proper job’ 26 years earlier was on Coronation Street felt like something had come full circle. 26 years previously I WAS the silent survivor at Coronation Street and now 26 years later I AM the vocal survivor helping Coronation Street tell a story that is helping men break their silence. I get goose bumps just writing that.

Similarly, when I talk about the next story we worked with our friends at Hollyoaks, I get shivers of pride. Their Exec Producer had been so inspired by seeing the Crewe and Man City ex-footballers stand outside court as paedophile Barry Bennell was convicted of numerous counts of sexually abusing boys during his reign as a professional football coach that he felt he needed to do something. I had seen the same footballers appear on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme and talk about their experiences in a way I’d never heard before. I was so inspired by one of those men, Steve Walters, that I reached out to offer my hand of support and he returned the offer becoming another of our ambassadors. Steve stated publicly on numerous occasions times the writers got it so right that it felt like he was reading parts of his life story. The #BreakTheSilence football abuse storyline we developed and that played out on Hollyoaks was not only a massive hit with audiences but won numerous awards. But possibly the most important part of that whole process was that we managed to get the first ever ISVA (Independent Sexual Violence Advisor) role shown on a soap. That meant that so many more survivors themselves better understood the type of support that is available to them from when they report abuse to the police through to appearing at court.

I was once asked what was the point of getting involved in these dramas and shouldn’t I focus my attention on services? But the simple answer is this is me drawing attention to services. I’m helping storytellers tell stories that show the public what help is available and that male survivors exist. I want to empower male survivors out there who are watching these shows to break the silence.

We will continue to help these stories be told and just recently ITV announced a new story was in development with Survivors Manchester which we’re incredibly excited about.

If we’re going to change the world for male survivors, we need to first change the view the world has about male survivors. A big thank you to long-running soaps like Coronation Street and Hollyoaks because they give us the platform to challenge perceptions, reach new audiences and help break the silence.

National vision starts at a local level

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One year on from the launch of the Community Wealth Fund Alliance, Public Affairs Officer at Lloyds Bank Foundation, Rachel Cain, writes about the importance of putting communities at the heart of key decision-making on how money is spent locally. The idea is gaining traction across the third sector and is backed by 150 organisations. 


As Brexit looms there is a profound need for a positive vision for the future. A movement is building around the idea of a Community Wealth Fund – a national, long-term initiative which starts with communities at a local level.

The Brexit conversation has highlighted and intensified the divisions that exist within communities. The phrase ‘left-behind communities’ is thrown around without much interrogation into its meaning and how to change things for the better – further alienating and dividing communities in the process. We know that there are places which aren’t benefiting from economic growth. We know that there are areas where jobs are scarce and uncertain, and where transport links are lacking. We also know that many communities have lost important social infrastructure – the places to meet which are vital for building the bonds that hold people together. Where is the vision for change?

Small and local charities like the ones we fund are often created with, by and for the communities they exist to serve. They are distinct in how they build trust, act as a foundation for change and take a person-centred approach which allows people to determine what they need to move forward.

These issues play out first and foremost at a local level and this is where change must start. One of the biggest challenges people face is feeling a lack of choice and control to shape and be part of the communities they live in. Civil society has a vital role to play in this. Small and local charities like the ones we fund are often created with, by and for the communities they exist to serve. They are distinct in how they build trust, act as a foundation for change and take a person-centred approach which allows people to determine what they need to move forward. They bring new resources into the community and act as the ‘glue’ which brings people and services together.

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Public Affairs & Programmes Officer Rachel Cain

But even where this community infrastructure exists, it is underfunded and overstretched. Smaller charities in particular have lost up to 44% of their funding from public bodies at a time when demand is rising, leading to closure or reduced services. To realise a positive vision, there needs to be long-term strategic funding, targeted to the communities which need it most.

This is the vision of the Community Wealth Fund. An idea backed by an alliance of voluntary, public and private sector organisations. The campaign is calling for a new multi-billion-pound endowment, created from dormant assets, to invest in the communities where disadvantage is most acute. This fund will provide strategic funding focused on building capacity and infrastructure. The funding could come from the next wave of dormant assets from insurance and pension policies, bonds, stocks and shares, matched with investment from larger companies. Most importantly, local people will lead the way this fund is spent, reflecting  what positive change in their area should look like.

A year since its launch, the Community Wealth Fund Alliance has been backed by 150 organisations across sectors and regions, and the idea is gaining traction. The answer to a positive vision for the future lies with the people who know their community best – they just need the funding and opportunity to put it into action. Read more about the idea, the research behind it and how you can get involved by signing up to join the alliance.

Paul Streets: Look to small charities for reparation-based approaches to rehabilitation

Small and local charities are keen to revamp the government’s failed Transforming Rehabilitation programme and support offenders.

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The Government’s new Prime Minister and cabinet have been appointed with a clear focus on Brexit, but with myriad other tough issues to face in service to their electorate.  One of the more complicated and nuanced is Criminal Justice – a key priority for Lloyds Bank Foundation and the charities we support.

In his final speech as Justice Secretary David Gauke pointed out what those who work with offenders had known for years: ‘if all offenders who currently receive prison sentences of less than six months were given a community order instead, we estimate that there would be around 32,000 fewer proven reoffences a year’. As Robert Buckland takes up the mantle let’s hope he doesn’t leave it till his last month to reach the same conclusions, given that Mr Gauke leaves office with historically high prison numbers: at 92,000 twice that of 1990.

At the Foundation we’re taking a more targeted, upstream approach to justice issues, including working with the Howard League to reduce the number of women arrested, as well as aiming to do more to influence the new probation system being developed. The small charities we work know the flaws and failings of ‘Transforming Rehabilitation’ first hand – a venture condemned by the Justice Select Committee in 2018 as having ‘failed to open up the probation market’, or for offering ‘through the gate’ support that was inflexible and ‘merely signposting.’

With so many small and local charities keen to revamp the system it’s not enough to fund them to rehabilitate ex-offenders – it’s time to stem the cycle – to divert and reduce people entering the system in the first place. We’ve had a huge number of expressions of interest from charities to undertake specific work. This reflects the hugely diverse nature of work across the sector, including work focused on specific communities who are over-represented including: BAME groups; Care leavers; Gypsy and Roma communities; or on preventative work and alternative approaches like restorative justice.

In a recent opinion piece from the Economic and Social Research Council Professor Fergus McNeill argues for a better balance between ‘retribution’ and ‘reparation’ based approaches. He notes the truth we see in work we fund – which chimes with David Gauke’s comments that we should ‘look past the offence ‘to the person and the complex needs that contribute to keeping them trapped in a cycles of crime’ – that the ‘wrongdoings’ which result in criminalisation are often associated with wrongs against perpetrators in their earlier lives. One particularly stark observation is that people who were ‘looked after’ by the state as children are 13 times more likely to end up in prison.

Seen in this light, the role of small charities like Leicestershire Cares, which I visited and which works with both care leavers and ex-offenders, is critical in ensuring that people who leave both forms of institutional care get the support they need. Sometimes that’s support for the most simple – but symbolic – of things. One of the prisoners they’d managed to secure employment for told me the thing that made the biggest difference to his life was being able to ‘buy birthday presents for his grandchildren’.

McNeill’s piece notes that whilst offending itself breaks relationships and tears at our social fabric, as with care leavers, the fabric itself is torn because it is already ‘weak and worn thin by these other wrongs’. Given this the repair, like the tear, must be relational. Small local charities like Leicestershire Cares and the West Yorkshire Chaplaincy are best placed to understand this. Let’s hope the new Justice Secretary understands that too when he launches the ‘reformed’ ‘Transforming Rehabilitation’ programme.

‘Decision makers must not turn their backs on local domestic abuse experts’

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Business Manager for HARV Amanda Elwen

Hyndburn and Ribble Valley (HARV) Domestic Violence Team is a charity that has been providing services to vulnerable children and families since 1998. Amanda Elwen, Business Manager for HARV, has written an open letter to officials, calling on them to turn their attention to the urgent need within domestic abuse services and to give a voice to specialists on Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG).

In response to the demand and strain upon domestic violence services, generic victims services were established. Amanda Elwen highlights the shortcomings of such services and the importance of supporting VAWG specialists. Read Amanda’s heartfelt open letter below:

Dear Commissioners, Policy Makers and Decision Makers,

Did I do something wrong? Did I speak too loud? Did I not behave appropriately? Do I not conform to your expectations?

You see, our relationship has deteriorated recently. For the last twenty-five years, I have dedicated my life to supporting thousands of women and children who have suffered abuse. My charities have delivered hundreds of contracts and independent evaluations suggest we have done a good job.

Recently, it seems that you think that you no longer need me and I have to say after 25 years, this hurts a little bit. You had a party the other evening and you didn’t even invite me, you invited lots of your new friends. I’m no longer invited around your table and you don’t even let me have the scraps anymore.

But you still expect me to keep doing what I have always done and sometimes when you need me for something, like an equality impact assessment, you promise me, one day it will get better.

I hang on your promises in the hope that things might change. I stay a little longer in the hope that I may get invited around your table once again. But you don’t call and you leave me with very little option. To survive or not to survive. Well surprise, surprise, we chose survive. You see, when you leave a woman with nothing, you leave them in very dangerous territory. But courage calls to courage everywhere. We survived by developing businesses that generate enough profit to enable us to continue to provide frontline services to women and children.

Let me say that again. In the 21st century, specialist VAWG services have to establish businesses to generate enough profit to then provide women and children with the services that are necessary for them to survive. How many women’s charities have we seen close this year alone? And at a time where demand for our services are greater than ever. Our sector is not valued, and we are being discarded and thrown to the margins. This is about respect. Respect at every level. You see, when women are respected, they do not need protection. If you need heart surgery, you go to a heart surgeon. If you need a tooth extracting, you go to a dentist. If you are raped, violated, coerced, harassed, assaulted, abused, humiliated, forced or exploited then who would you want to help you? If you have nowhere to live and have lost your children as a result of violence who would you want to help you? If it was your sister, mother or wife, who would you want to help them?

The answer is not a generic victims service. The answer is I want the very best, I want the expert, I want the people who understand the complexity of the situation and have the experience to know how to best support me and my family. I want the people who are available when I need them, the people who will fight for justice and stand by my side.

Women and children are still coming to us, the demand for our services haven’t changed and while women and children continue to line up for help, I urge you to find ways to get the VAWG specialists back around the table where key decisions are being made.

Paul Streets: Small charities moving the dial

It is the grass-roots organisations such as London Friends that often change attitudes, writes our CEO Paul Streets. Paul-Streets-018-20180123103542147

Our sector has always moved societal niche issues to societal norms. And as we celebrate Small Charity Week, it’s worth noting that this always begins in grass-roots organisations responding to unseen need, often through establishing small charities. My recent visit to London Friend near Kings Cross in London was a testament to this.

They achieve all this and very much more with just £400,000, with a staggering 100 volunteers supporting only 11 staff (seven of whom are part-time). This is a great example of the social value per pound that community-led small charities so often add.

It is probably the oldest LGBT charity in the UK. It was established in 1972, only five years after homosexuality was decriminalised. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the community continued to experience significant prejudice, including violence.

Monty Moncrieff, chief executive of London Friend, recalls an era when its front window was frequently bricked. The “Friend” in its name is a reflection of the need it was founded to meet: Fellowship for the Relief of Individuals in Emotional DistressIn three years, it will share its 50th anniversary with Pride and Moncrieff is already planning how it will celebrate.

The charity’s London offices are pretty basic: old furniture, old IT kit and a large area of replastered wall at the back where the damp got in and it has not got round to repainting. But the real work happens in five sexual health and advice centres, where it provides an Antidote programme addressing the adverse consequences of drug dependency and, in particular, the rise of chemsex.

Moncrieff explains that – even more than 50 years after decriminalisation – part of the community still experiences hang-ups about sexual activity and many experience loneliness.

Social media has gone some way towards helping to relieve this by connecting people more easily, but it has also increased the amount of risky sex with strangers. And the rising use in the past decade of drugs such as crystal meth to help people overcome the anxiety often attached has brought with it catastrophic consequences.

This highly addictive and potent drug reduces sexual inhibition, but also has distressing physical and mental health withdrawal symptoms, including heart problems, paranoia, aggression and, in some cases, suicide.

The Antidote programme is one of London Friend’s several offers of support, encompassing psychosocial counselling, alongside one-to-one structured work through a six-week ChemCheck programme and SWAP (Structured Weekend Antidote Programme), an initiative designed to mirror a drug treatment day programme over four weekends, specifically targeting people affected by chemsex.

They achieve all this and very much more with just £400,000, with a staggering 100 volunteers supporting only 11 staff (seven of whom are part-time). This is a great example of the social value per pound that community-led small charities so often add.

As is the embeddedness of London Friend, a charity that has grown and evolved with its service users. This means that, like so many small charities, it is able to reach those whom others can’t, work in ways others don’t and stay engaged when others won’t.

Also, like the 97 per cent of small but vital charities being celebrated this week, it is addressing the issues that so often go unnoticed or unmentioned. It tackles some of the most difficult, complex and sometimes unpopular issues in society, challenging us all to acknowledge, understand and address issues we might prefer to ignore, but which, if left, have the potential to do untold harm to people on the edge of society.

At a time when it’s easy to be gloomy about the UK, London Friend, and tens of thousands of organisations like it, are a reminder of the unseen and valuable national assets in our voluntary sector.

Five things I’ve learnt this year as Head of Grants

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Oliver Williams, Head of Grants – South

Oliver Williams is the Head of Grants – South at Lloyds Bank Foundation. He joined the Foundation in July 2018 from Premiership Rugby, where he looked after the national education, health, social inclusion and capacity building community programmes delivered by England’s professional rugby union clubs.

He previously held roles in small charities and trade unions mainly focused on education, social mobility and youth leadership.


I’ve had an absolute whirlwind of a first year here at the Foundation and have learned plenty. Not only how the office hot water tap works and where Corby is, but also what life is really like for the organisations and people working on the frontline to address complex social issues across England and Wales. There’ve been plenty of lightbulbs switching on, pennies a-dropping and realisations a-dawning, but these are the ones that loom heavy on my mind.

  1. Small charities do the complex stuff that larger charities (and the state) won’t touch

We read all about it in the Value of Small research last year, but the charities we work with really are more impactful, resourceful and responsive than their larger counterparts. I’ve seen and heard this time and again, in lots of different ways, and it makes me very proud to work for a funder with such a strong belief in and commitment to this part of the sector. But it’s not just how small charities work that makes them special, it’s what they do as well. Many of the small charities I’ve seen have been doing extremely complex, long-term, fiddly, sometimes controversial work, with those facing disadvantage at its most acute, that larger charities, let alone the state, simply wouldn’t touch.

  1. The sector is stretched beyond belief

As highlighted in A Quiet Crisis, spend on disadvantage is actually decreasing nationally in spite of rising demand and cost. Most worrying of all, 97% of the reductions have come in the most deprived areas of the country, a fact that is well reflected in what charities in these areas are telling us. Demand is rising, funding is ever harder to secure and the operating environment ever more challenging.

  1. Mental health and wellbeing is something we’re going to need to address

It was on my third day that I first saw a charity CEO in tears, exhausted and overwhelmed with the scale of the need and the challenge of meeting it. It was around week four that I read about the charity who had a third of their team on long-term sick. It’s a worrying trend that we’re all seeing; a sharp increase in workplace stress, long-term sickness and mental health problems amongst both themselves and their teams. It’s a trend that I fear will define the sector over the next five years, which is why we’re already thinking hard about how we can help address this. We won’t be able to do this alone though, so I urge infrastructure organisations, larger charities and funders to join with us to do what we can to support those working on the front-line.

  1. Learning from each other

Yes it’s a cliché. Yes, you could spend your entire working life in the queue for coffee at conferences and seminars and events and roundtables, half-heartedly asking the person in front “and have you had far to come today?”, nodding knowingly as they describe the problems on the branch line from Nuneaton. But sharing our experiences, lessons and perspectives as a sector, being generous with our time, knowledge and skills, is what can truly set us apart from the daftly competitive private sector, or the terminally siloed state. Setting aside the time to learn from each other, should be just as important as core activities, and we as a Foundation are committed to making this as easy and engaging as possible through our Learning and Networks programme.

  1. We really can make things a bit better for small charities

All of this has put us to work thinking about what more we can do to make things easier for small and local charities. We’ve already started to overhaul our processes, making good on our commitment to reduce bureaucracy, and give applicants a much clearer idea of the likelihood of success. We’re also looking hard at Enhance – our funder plus programme designed to support charities to develop, ensuring that it has something to offer everyone, from a volunteer-led community group to a fast-growing refugee support charity.

This is a fascinating, challenging and privileged place to work. The team we’ve got is the best, the resources we have are significant, and the profile we’ve built is powerful. We’ve started to grapple with these themes already, but I’m raring to commit my Difficult Second Year to doing even more.

Lessons in influencing policy and practice

Rachel Cain, Public Affairs and National Programmes Officer, shares five top tips from Transform project leaders in influencing policy and practice in the domestic and sexual abuse sectors

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What does a good influencing project look like? It’s something we’re thinking about as we’re developing our new Criminal Justice National Programme, and as many Transform projects come to an end.

Transform was our first national programme aimed at influencing policy and practice and has enabled 16 organisations to bring about change in the domestic and sexual abuse sector.

Whether developing a training programme or campaigning for policy change, the impact of these projects have been wide-ranging. Recently, charity leaders from the Transform programme reflected on what they’d learnt, what made their projects a success and how they overcame challenges.

We’ve gathered together their top five tips to help anyone planning a similar project around influencing change:

  1. Be flexible in your approach

Opportunities or challenges in the policy environment, the media or the political sphere can quickly change the landscape in which you are working. Being able to respond and adapt can be crucial to success. For example, the Domestic Abuse Bill was brought to Parliament during the Transform programme and some projects used this opportunity to advocate for better provision for the groups they work with.

There may also be opportunities to capitalise on important media stories on a related topic, or finding ways to work around barriers such as Brexit dominating Parliament. It’s also important to adapt plans in response to feedback from target groups. Consider what has worked well so far and how you can build on this.

  1. Broaden your reach

Whether building a case to influence policy or strengthen your network, success depends on engaging the right people across a range of organisations beyond those you already work with. This can be difficult, particularly when trying to get buy-in from busy people working in charities, public services or government who have conflicting priorities.

Identifying those you haven’t yet reached is a crucial starting point in broadening your reach. It can be a real challenge, for example, to find or connect with people who are affected by an issue but who have never engaged with services before. Consider how you can break down these barriers, and ensure their voices are not otherwise lost in evidence or debates.

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  1. Take the lead from those who have been affected by the issue

Many of the Transform projects have been led by, informed or co-created with victims/survivors. While this can have a number of positives, you also need to tread with care and commitment.

Consider whether your organisation has the capacity to meaningfully engage people, remove barriers to participation, provide necessary support and create safe spaces for people to share and be involved. If not, how can you find the capacity?

Projects that the Foundation has funded under Transform highlighted the need for sensitivity around the issues of domestic and sexual abuse, regardless of who they were working with. In every situation there will be people with a range of different experiences, so these issues should always be approached with care and consideration.

  1. Think early about how to enable others to put your work in to action

Many people reflected on the value of having tools or resources that enable others to put work into action. Plan this as early as possible rather than waiting until the work is done. Ask yourself how you can follow through to ensure a campaign is implemented effectively. Perhaps you might provide briefings so that service users understand their rights and that service providers are held to account in delivering on this. Similarly, if your aim is to get practitioners in other organisations to improve services for a group of people, how could you take it further than a training course? Longer-term engagement and providing tools to help busy people embed a new approach into their organisation whilst managing existing work will lead to more sustainable change.

  1. Build capacity to deal with surprises

Staff turnover and capacity poses one of the biggest challenges to organisations and is often unpredictable and difficult to plan for. However, doing so successfully can have a big impact on progress. Some reported that project schedules slipped due to lengthy academic approval processes while other organisations experienced unanticipated levels of interest, appetite and engagement in their work which, while positive, can put additional demands on capacity.

In building capacity, consider that new aspects of a project will require more time for staff to get up to speed. If working in partnership, have you been clear about roles and responsibilities, and included time for developing and maintaining good working relationships? Tips included building extra flexibility into plans to allow for change and ensuring that your initial proposal accurately reflects the level of resources needed to make the project a success.

Whether you’re interested in our new criminal justice funding or looking to change policy or practice in another area, there are many ways to put this learning into practice when planning your next steps towards influencing change. We’re looking forward to sharing more success and learnings from out Transform programme in the coming months.

About Transform:

Transform is a one-off grants programme launched in 2016 that offered grants worth up to £100,000 over two years, aimed at stimulating innovation and improvements in the domestic and sexual abuse sectors.