Could you be our first Independent Chair?

To lead us to progress the opportunities we are developing and to meet the challenges facing us over the next few years, the Blue Stone Consortium Board is looking for its first ever Independent Chair who can bring their proven leadership skills, experience and understanding of health, wellbeing and care, and use their key relationship qualities to develop collaborative services for the benefit of people in Gateshead and Newcastle.

Click here to download the recruitment pack, and contact our current Chair, Dave Woolley, at david.w@yvc.org.uk, to arrange an informal discussion about the role.

The closing date for CVs and expressions of interest is 31 July 2018.

Fancy a bit of policy change?

Report from the North East Social Leader’s Network meeting on 1st February 2018, by our Business and Performance Development Manager, Neil Shashoua

Why is this important?

Here at the Consortium, we want change for the better. Our focus is change in health,  wellbeing and care for people in Gateshead and Newcastle. And we do this by working with our members to collaborate with agencies that commission and deliver services to the public so that, together, we are more effective, efficient and deliver what people want, where they want it and at the right time.

That’s often where policy comes in. To understand how we can shape and change policy so that it meets the needs and aspirations of people who benefit from our members’ work, we took part in the first North East Social Leaders event of 2018.

The event

Ed Cox, Director of IPPR North presented his thinking on what policy is, knowing the importance of what policy change looks like, understanding where to apply pressure, and devolution opportunities.

This was followed by live policy change conversations on the changing nature of public services, raising the profile of issues related to women and girls, and Universal Credit.

The reportback

What is policy? Policy is the domain that sits within the spectrum that includes legislation, practice and behaviour. When people talk about policy they are often referring to a number of different domains; including law, practice and behaviour. But policy is different. To give an example, let’s suppose we want to change issues related to immigration and asylum.

The law around this is the Immigration and Asylum Act.

The policy around this is the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme

Practice around this covers resettlement by local authorities

Behaviour around this is about public attitudes to new arrivals

So, anyone wanting to change something related to immigration and asylum would need to first identify what they were most concerned about. This may be one or more than one aspect of legislation, policy, practice, and/or behaviour.

In addition to which domain needs to be changed, it is important to identify where it is that you want this change to take place. This could be at the levels of the

  • Citizen
  • Neighbourhood
  • Local authority
  • Functional economic area (currently the Combined Authorities area)
  • The regional level (tricky to define conclusively as the Government no longer plans at this level in England)
  • The national government level – as a highly centralised country, a lot of power in England is vested at the national level.

Developing a strategy for policy change in the North East

In any policy change activity you need to ask the following

  1. What do you want to change?
  2. What would change look like?
  3. Who actually has the authority/power to make this change?
  4. What are the key points of weakness/influence?
  5. As an organisation
    • What is our role in this change?
    • Where can we work with others?
  6. How long will this change take to make?
  7. What are the milestones?
  8. What are the next steps?

The North East

Ed set out his views on the definition of the North East that fitted in with this framework.

In law, there is no North East of England. Our region does not have the same status in law as Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Policy is developed/ handed down to/ implemented by a number of different stakeholders including 12 local authorities, two combined authorities, a metro mayor and a group of other agencies.

Practice and behaviour is about the set of local and shared identities and activities that go on in our region.

In terms of the balance of power in the North East; it’s very much dominated by central government. Ed’s view was that as the North East, we would be in the best position to shape a regional policy by collaborating with the rest of the North of England.

Here’s the full set of Ed’s slides.

Using social media to promote human rights

Report of the Blue Stone Rights Project training on social media for campaigning; by our Business Development and Performance Manager, Neil Shashoua 

Takeaway:

Blue Stone Rights Project partners got together with the people who run Newcastle Social Media Surgeries to learn how to use social media to campaign, promote the voices of their beneficiaries and demonstrate the impact side of their work.

The half day session on 5th September 2017 helped partners to understand what social media is; how it can be an effective set of tools to gather support and focus messages for change; and what makes a successful campaign.

The session ended by participants suggesting a shared promotion of Human Rights Day in December 2018.

Report:

Eleven staff from six of the eight partners in the Consortium’s Blue Stone Rights Project, funded by the Baring Foundation, came together with William Mortada and Stephanie Cole, who run the Newcastle Social Media Surgeries, to focus on the campaigning/demonstrating impact side of partners’ work.

Twitter___Notifications

This first event for projects partners, held on 5th September 2017, and hosted by Northumbria University’s Business School, was born from the Consortium’s discussions with those partners about whether adopting a human rights based approach could improve the outcomes for the people they serve. A number of partners felt they would like to become better at using social media, (‘spaces for online conversations’ as defined by Stephanie and William) to build relationships with people to make changes that have a positive impact on their beneficiaries; from seeing disabled people differently to hearing the voices of carers.

The training aimed to support partners in promoting the voice of their beneficiaries, targeting their messages, understanding how social media can be one of a set of tools to do so, using it for building alliances, and measuring the difference it has made.

Throughout the training, William and Stephanie emphasised the importance of planning your campaign and ensuring that plan is in harmony with whatever communications strategy is in place (formally or informally) in your organisation. Not everyone is connected online and not everyone online uses social media, so it is important to understand who the target audiences are that you want to reach online. A note on cost too – whilst social media tools are mostly free; staff time is not …so that needs to be a factor in your plan.

We then looked at two successful campaigns which had substantial online presence; one to re-open Newcastle City Pool and Turkish Baths, the other countering everyday sexism. The elements that made these effective included understanding the opportunities and limitations of social media, using hashtags to link posts from supporters, and gathering followers to show the people the campaigners wanted to influence that there was a high level of backing for the campaigns and their demands.

We went on to look at how to organise our organisations for using social media. There were some great tips including having more than one person posting/tweeting and choosing people who understand the organisation and its work William_Mortada_on_Twitter___Enjoyed_delivering__socialmedia_training_with__sharingdoing_for__BlueStoneConsor_today_https___t_co_ie3xsYxWO2_well.

There are quite a few social media platforms out there so it is good to run tests to find out which platforms your audiences use and focus on using a few platforms effectively, rather than spend time using lots of platforms. You may even find your target audiences don’t much use social media!

After partners paired up to plan their next campaign using the social media planning canvases (one template and one with questions), we discussed what next for this learning. Partners suggested doing some campaigning together and Human Rights Day in December was one focus for this.

At the end of the training partners fed back that they liked having space to plan a campaign, they now had a better understanding of what to communicate via social media, and they appreciated the resources that Stephanie and William gave out to help them.

 

See the slides from the training, below

 

Meet our new trustees

The Consortium’s governance  has been strengthened by the Board’s appointment of two new trustees; Professor Chris Drinkwater and Dr Jan Myers.  Both combine a strong track record in developing initiatives with the not for profit sector around health & wellbeing and social enterprise, as well as having academic careers.

Chris Drinkwater 2017Chris is leading the development and implementation of Well Newcastle Gateshead, our exciting initiative as the latest pathfinder of Well North, to improve the health of people in four sites across Gateshead and Newcastle by working with local communities to set up and connect with activities that help them create, connect and aspire. Read more about Well Newcastle Gateshead here.

Jan, who researched the current situation of our members and what they wanted from Jan Myers photothe Consortium to present to our AGM last November, works at Newcastle Business School, Northumbria University, where she is part of several key research and practice areas around public policy and public management, responsible business, and social economy and social enterprise.

 

Read more about Jan and Chris here.

Building Collaborative Places: How to make system change real

Report from the North East Social Leader’s Network  meeting on 5th April 2017, by our Business Development Manager, Neil Shashoua with thanks for the photos to Carol Botten of VONNE (via Twitter).

The event

The Network hosted Dr Henry Kippin, Director of Collaborate launching, in the North of England, Collaborate’sBuilding Collaborative Places’ , a report that draws on a year of action research in Greater Manchester, the West Midlands and the South East. It offers system leaders a framework to reboot strategic partnerships and change the culture of collaboration across services to the public in a place.

Takeaway

Everyone talks about collaboration, system change, and asset-based approaches; often these words are used as part of rhetoric resulting in little actual change. The big systems that operate in planning, funding, and delivering public goods need changing; for at least two reasons:

  • Money to run them – the old social contract of an exchange of economic growth for the improvement of everyone’s living conditions, no longer operates. The gap between rich and poor; in our towns, cities, countries and the world, is increasing and a new politics of ‘permanent austerity’ is in the ascendency in this country.
  • Power – the shift in providing welfare services from the state to individuals and businesses means that we are all less confident in continuing to do things to people in which they have little or no say.

New principles for place based change include

  1. Stop thinking about public services and start thinking about services to the public – it’s not just about what local authorities, the NHS and other public bodies provide
  2. Collaboration by default should be our mode of thinking and acting
  3. The people who are the end users of the change get to define the scope/location of the change – top down grand plans tend to fail to bring about lasting change.

The activities that system change need to succeed are to do with setting up the conditions that make change possible. Collaborate have identified nine building blocks of infrastructure for local collaboration. A key insight from their research is that, in the main, the separate, silo infrastructure of each organisation in the system that needs to be changed tends to undermine collaboration, thereby fracturing the local system. Furthermore, the role of collaborative infrastructure to enable system change is often overlooked, misunderstood and underplayed.

Leaders need to lead by example; which is why leadership is hard. Thinking beyond the concerns and boundaries of the organisation you lead is a personal journey.

Why this is important to the Consortium

Here at the Consortium, we have a big vision around assisting our members to collaborate with each other and with commissioners and funders to improve the health, care and well being of people in Gateshead and Newcastle. Increasingly, the organisations and programmes with which we collaborate are pushing the system to change so that’s people who are already disadvantaged in our area are not disadvantaged further by the failure of the system to respond to their needs and that their response does not disadvantage those people further.

Collaborate’s analysis and tools are refreshing and inspiring. We think they are worth exploring to help us change the conversation (and therefore our approach and thinking) in how we assist our members and supporters to change the systems within which they operate and help their beneficiaries to improve their lives.

The full report

Q: Why is collaboration a lot like teenage sex?

A: Because everyone says they are doing it; everybody thinks everybody else is doing it. And the reality is that no-one’s doing much of it at all.

Dr Kippin’s opening joke led onto him talking about the language we use around system change; he finds it disheartening and challenged us to come up with different terms. In his view, collaboration, system change and asset-based are terms used a lot of the time, and a lot of the time these terms are used to sustain a system with very little change.

Whenever we think of system change we need to ask ‘for whom and on behalf of whom?’ In this way we can find out whether the collaboration that we talk about holds the weight of the work we do.

Where are we now?

Woody AllenThe current international scene as well as what’s going on in our towns and cities everyday feels like ‘the end of days’. We have a new politics of permanent austerity. There’s been a shift away from public management and the marketisation of public services has not led to better services nor got us out of the fix we are in. The cost of welfare is being deliberately shifted from the state to individuals and businesses. Not many of the models we have for service provision feel sustainable.

There is no point in trying to save public services as they were in Nye Bevan’s day when a bedpan dropped in hospital reverberated in the corridors of Whitehall. We’re not in that world (and perhaps we never were).

The gap between the demand for public services and the spend gap is estimated at £7bn. we can’t change the system by throwing money at it. Demand is more complex than that anyway because we (an ageing population) have all the characteristics and complexities that we do.

This is also where we start to question the growth model – it doesn’t make sense to keep thinking of our economy as growing and that services to the public will be funded from that growth. Our economy has undergone a structural change enabling an increasing gap between rich and poor in this country (and the world).

How we manage change – we know less than we think we do

Evaluations of big change programmes, such as Troubled Families, shows that however good the theory and however good the practice, the outcomes may still end up to be very poor.

The public’s experience of public services

This can be encapsulated by the Groucho Marx quote “I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn’t it.” The public’s engagement with the state’s services to a level where they are influencing and controlling them is very low.

The welfare state now

If William Beveridge, architect of the welfare state, arrived in the North East now, what William Beveridgewould he find? If the five Giants of the post war Country which Beveridge addressed were want, disease, squalor, ignorance and idleness; what are the new Giants today?

On Dr Kippin’s list of new Giants are housing, domestic violence, loneliness, social isolation, mental ill health, and poor aspirations. They are all the drivers of pubic spending, poor service outcomes, and miserable lives of people who experience them. And none of them are the gift of any one organisation to solve.

But we have a vision gap for the future of public services because our current politics deals with very short-term phenomena. We need place based system change and Collaborates report makes the case for what place based change needs to happen and why it is important. Let’s start with principles for place based change.

Principles of a new model of place based changed

These might look different in different places.

principles of new modelFirstly a shift from public services to services to the public. We needs to stop thinking only about public services and instead to think about what people need to ensure they have access to the world eg a smartphone and wifi connection.

Secondly, trying to be collaborative by default – a lot of the dysfunction in our society is reinforced or created by failure demand created by the fragmentation of public services for mostly historical reasons. If we look at the Public Health England sponsored Commission for Health and Social Care Integration in the North East, it is less about public services and more about what it would take to get consultant doctors to live in Sunderland and how to reduce the high proportion of agency staff in our health & social care services. It very much echoes The Marmot Review into health inequalities in England about the world we want to see.

There are things we always need to do when thinking about system change

  1. Change the starting point of these conversations. Places mean different things to different people. Brexit told us that. Agencies usually start off having mapped out their focus for the location where they want to see flip the starting pointchange – rarely do they ask what does that mean for the people who live there.
    Similarly social support mean different things to different people. Researching into families under the Troubled Families programme showed that what positive change means for families can be different from what it means to professionals.
  2. Learn from practice – take this notion of collaboration seriously. It is nice to have a sense that you are working togpracticeether and the more you talk about sharing power and risk, the better it will work.

None of this happens by accident – there are some places doing it really well

  • Coventry – Ignite: VCS system led change
  • Oldham – innovative work around primary care, GPs doing less work for less income and bringing in people do to do other things to improve health
  • Sheffield Money; the City Council set up a rival to Wonga.
  • Suffolk – model for how community development, economic growth and public sector reform work together.

All of these things have one thing in common – that they are pushing against the grain. We don’t need more plans/more design. We need to focus on what are the conditions that need to be true for what we want to happen. We need to ask ourselves what needs to be true in order for this behaviour to change? When we are thing about system change it is about pre-conditions.

And when we talk about the conditions that need to be in place the change to happen, we are talking about infrastructure to underpinning those conditions. Infrastructure is about the rewiring that needs to be in place for change to happen.

Collaborate have boiled this down to nine building blocks to system change to create a way to have a diagnostic conversation about system change.

Building blocks

What does all this mean in terms of leadership?

Since this is the North East social leaders network, Dr Kippin wanted to pose the question of what does all of this mean for leaders. Increasingly he finds himself agreeing with the old adage ‘A fish rots form the head down’. Most transformations of big organsations fail- one prominent leader has estimated that 70% of them fail. Businesses fail to transform themselves because leading this agenda is a personal journey. Perhaps the nearer you are to the top, the harder it is to make that personal journey.

People in positions of responsibility and power need to take responsibility. CEOs of hospital Trusts need to think beyond the next CQC rating.

He gave as a good example of leadership Mick Cornett, the Mayor of Oklahoma City, who concerned that his city was too obese, found that he was too. His response was to go on a diet and took the city through his diet. His influence made a significant difference to obesity rates in Oklahoma. You can watch him talk about it here

The future of the Newcastle Fund

From our Business Development Manager, Neil Shashoua, 31/03/2017

Six voluntary and community organisations (including two Consortium members, Search and Newcastle Council for Voluntary Service, with apologies from Success4All and two who’d let me know their views beforehand) gathered yesterday at NCVS to take part in a focus group on the purpose and direction of travel for the Newcastle Fund. NCVS organised the focus group as part of its work to enable the sector to take part in the Council’s consultation on the Fund, led by the Council’s Daryll Alder and Karen Inglis.

The Fund (which for the 2017/18 round received 100 bids for £750,000) is the City Council’s grant aided programme for VCS organisations. The maximum amount that can be bid for was £50,000 and the average award was 75% of that requested. Out of those 100 bids, 34 were successful. Most of the funding had gone to the most deprived wards in the City. The full list of applicants (successful and unsuccessful) is here.

In addition to the £750,000, there was around £300,000 of existing commitments being funded including £80,000 for cultural events (including the Mela, and Chinese New Year celebrations).

Newcastle Fund consultation 20170330As the total amount has been reduced year on year, the Council are consulting on its purpose and future as well as the process for applying. Our focus group concentrated on the former, although all those present who’d applied for the Fund noted that they’d started completing the online form with great enthusiasm, only to lose the will to live by the end; as later questions ask for much the same information as early ones. The Council will change the application form.

The consultation ends on 6th April, giving time for Daryll and Karen to draft a paper for the Council’s Cabinet meeting on 24the April 2017. The Council’s proposal has already been to the Voluntary Sector Liaison Group and some information was considered by the Council’s Health Scrutiny Committee.

The Council intends to publish an annual prospectus for the fund and review how funded work is to be monitored and evaluated.

They want to maintain the Fund to have a citywide approach, although are proposing to involve Ward committees more in influencing its spend. Our focus group was not so keen on this idea as it would mean that Ward committees that did not understand the work of citywide organisations were less likely to favour their applications. In addition, this risked work with groups of people that were seen as unpopular causes would be less likely to be funded.

 

The focus group was aware that there was cynicism amongst some Fund applicants; perceiving that elected members have some control over who/what gets funded so if your organisation wasn’t favoured, again, your bid would be less likely to be successful.

In the past, smaller organisations applied for Ward funds more than at present; as those funds have shrunk those smaller organisations look to the Newcastle Fund for support.

Purpose of the Fund – The Council proposes to change the purpose of the Fund to include supporting an ‘asset based approach’. We felt a shared definition of this is needed because asset based is a very broad term.

Other funding – There was much discussion on the positives of the Fund taking into account other Council funding streams; Community Led Local Development and commissioned funds, as well as external funds too. The Council is more able to fund (via commissioning) certain types of work. In which case should the Newcastle Fund be best focussed on those organisations that are supporting their communities on other types of work? There was a suggestion too about creating a central, multisector group that could coordinate a Newcastle response to funding opportunities and have a strategic overview of how funding in the city is managed and targeted.

Size of bid/size of organisation – The squeezed middle (medium sized VCS organisations that are struggling under austerity) are ones which have less attraction for many larger funders. Perhaps the Fund could prioritise funding these organisations, which are the backbone of the VCS n the City?

New vs existing – There was a feeling that it would be better to use the Fund to invest in existing providers than to develop new ones or fund organisations to move into the space already occupied by existing providers.

Core vs project funding – Similarly the focus group would want the Fund to support core costs to sustain existing organisations with a good track record and reach in communities. The group accepted that the Newcastle Fund has funded core costs but this would be a shift in recognising the importance of stable management and administration to VCS groups and funding the core cost as an end in itself. This type of funding is harder to attract from many funders who want to see delivery but don’t want to fund the infrastructure that enables delivery to happen. The key issues is for bidders to demonstrate how the funding of their core costs will enhance the community/their services for beneficiaries.

Impact measures – we discussed how to measure impact; that this needs to be proportionate to the size of the funding allocation and that bids need to include resources to collect data and report back.

 

The consultation ends on 6th April. To have your say click here.

What happened when Mandy met Michael

24/02/2017

Neil Shashoua, our Business Development Manager, reports back from the project’s first action planning meeting with a partner of the Consortium’s Blue Stone Rights Project

The Consortium is all about bringing people together to do something good and this week saw a milestone in our Baring Foundation funded Blue Stone Rights Project. The project is a collaboration of Consortium members to share expertise, enthusiasm and ideas to introduce ways in which our members can introduce, develop, monitor and sustain legal and human rights approaches that improve the outcomes for their beneficiaries. The project works with organisations to answer the question ‘could the people we work with get a better deal if we highlighted that they have human rights?’.

In the current policy climate of austerity, the voluntary and community sector is increasingly seeing the downgrading of people’s ‘needs’ (which have more leverage in being supported through the public purse) to ‘wants’ (which don’t). Needs are contestable; rights are not. They are enshrined in law and have international standing.

The project’s funding has enabled us to bring in Newcastle Law Centre (also one of our members) to work with nine organisations to help them identify the issues their beneficiaries face that could be helped using a legal and human rights approach.

The first phase of the project has been the Law Centre leading a workshop for the staff of each of the nine partners; to date they have delivered five; with Newcastle YMCA, Newcastle Carers, Skills for People, Streetwise and Children North East. We’ve evaluated all five and been pleased that staff have told us how much they have learned about human rights and how they think it could improve their work with the people they support.

This week we held the first post-workshop meeting, with Streetwise, to look at which ideas coming out the workshop did organisations want to implement. Streetwise provides young people aged 13-25 with free and confidential advice, counselling, sexual health and support services from its based in Newcastle city centre and on the streets. They see around 6,000 young people every year.

Having already looked at their publicity material and website I could see that the organisation was big on defending young people’s rights so how could the Blue Stone Rights Project add value to their existing work?

Michael Fawole (Director, Newcastle Law Centre), Mandy Coppin (Chief Executive Officer of Streetwise) and I met in Streetwise’s waiting area (soon to be trendy coffee bar) to review the ideas of Streetwise’s 18 staff who’d taken part in the workshop.

mandy-and-michael-feb-2017sml

The evaluation of the workshop showed that staff found the workshop useful in raising their awareness of human rights and informing them of the detail of those rights but Mandy told us that the workshop had made a difference in another way. It had helped staff remind themselves of what Streetwise is all about and why they chose to work for the organisation and with young people. In the day to day hurly-burly of the job, there isn’t always time to do that.

She and Michael then set about coming up with loads of actions sparked off by ideas, suggestions and thoughts discussed in the workshop; from making a display about human rights on the notice board, to writing applications for funding to include a human rights approach, to including a question about whether young people feel they know more about their rights on the Streetwise feedback form. All practical and based on how the organisation works with young people.

The actions fell within two categories

  • Delivery – changing the way a service is delivered, the content of the service and/or designing a service to promote/enhance/improve that service’s upholding of the rights of young people
  • Strategic – eg influencing other services/professionals/funders to adopt a rights based approach re young people

We worked out how best to monitor the difference these actions made and who would do what.

It was a great start to this next phase of the project and we’ll keep you in the loop about the successes and challenges we come across.

For more information on Streetwise, go to https://www.streetwisenorth.org.uk/

How does Newcastle City Council commission and procure?

Neil Shashoua, our Business Development Manager, goes to a meeting so you don’t have to.

With so many Consortium members having public service contracts as a significant proportion of their income stream and service delivery, I was pleased to take part in Newcastle City Council’s event for the VCS on 21/11/16 to find out about their new Commissioning and Procurement Plan and to give our views on how they should assess social value in tenders.

The Plan talks about how commissioning and procurement works within the Council, and the four development areas for the lifetime of the Plan (2016/17 – 2019/20).

  1. social values
  2. supporting local markets
  3. contract management
  4. technology

 

As well as showcasing the Plan, the 11 of us who braved the cold to get together with Rachel Baillie (Assistant Director for Inclusion, Commissioning and Procurement) and Laura Choake (Commissioning Programme Manager), found out that the value of the Council’s contracts with the VCS (not independent schools and housing associations) are worth £54m, which is 18% of the Council’s total contract spend. Of that 18%, 43% is North East based and 25% is with organisations based in the city. There’ll be a report to the Council’s Voluntary Sector Liaison Group next month with more details on this.

Where’s the shopping list?

The Plan has links to information to help you find out when existing contracts end, one of the two reasons for the Council to recommission, the other being new funding of course. Look at the contract register and commissioning intentions at https://www.newcastle.gov.uk/business/tenders-contracts-and-procurement/commissioning-and-procurement-plan

All tenders go via the NEPO portal, which has been likened to Dr Who’s Tardis; but unlike that fictional police box it can send you daily alerts for tenders and consultation events.

Grants and contracts – never the twain shall meet?

Part of the Council’s thinking behind setting up the Newcastle Fund, to provide grants to the VCS, was to develop series that, if they were needed and developed, could be commissioned. Public sector cuts has made this less likely than before although there are some examples of where grant funded services have migrated to become commissioned ones; the recent bringing together of funding for domestic violence services was cited as one such example.

One point made was that some councils procure some of their commissioned services via a grant, rather than a contract. Newcastle has no plans to do this and want to keep the two separate.

Valuing the social

The final part of the event was to introduce us to part of the framework that the Council has been developing (supported by a working group) on social value. Cabinet Office funding has enabled Garry Stone of B2B North to support the Council to develop the framework and we were asked for our views on questions to assess whether a tender meets the four principles of

  1. Think, buy, support Newcastle
  2. Community Focused
  3. Green and Sustainable
  4. Ethical Leadership

Want to comment on these questions? Click here

The Plan and suite of accompanying documents may not be of much comfort if you’ve just lost a tender after spending weeks locked in a room writing it with your colleagues, are frustrated that you have only 30 days to bid, or are trying to understand why your tender scored so low on the ‘price’ criteria even though your bid came in at the budget figure. However, I found it to be well structured, clear in its wording, and good in its coverage of some of the key issues we’ve been discussing in the VCS for years; proportionate contract management, transparency of decision making around tenders, and including the social value in procurement decisions and policy.

 

Coming together to celebrate our achievements and look to the future

 

Our Annual General Meeting, Wednesday 16th November 2016 at Gateshead Advice Centre

Takeaway:

The Consortium achieved much last year: creating one consortium from two; building our infrastructure; continuing to deliver the Fulfilling Lives initiative; and winning funding from the Baring Foundation for a project involving our members. We also brought members together to help them bid, successfully, for a major project to help families in Newcastle in crisis.

Currently we are working with health, arts and culture organisations to develop Well Newcastle Gateshead, a pathfinder to improve the health of the poorest people fastest, in Gateshead and Newcastle.

The University of Northumbria’s survey of our members showed that our Consortium is diverse in the size of our membership and that members provide vital health, social, educational, economic and environmental services, which are increasingly in demand. They continue to face reductions in funding, find it challenging to secure grant income and some struggle to go for and win contracts to deliver the services they provided under a grant. They are uncertain as to the impact of Brexit and the halting of the North East devolution process. However, they have practical support and skills to offer each other.

Blue Stone Consortium’s first Annual General Meeting went off to a cracking start with a warm welcome from Alison Dunn, Chief Executive of Gateshead Advice Centre and a trustee of the Consortium, to the gathering of 30 members and supporters. Martin Gollan of Newcastle Council for Voluntary Service very ably took photos and tweeted for us throughout the meeting so we could share the experience with memebrs and supporters who could not make it to the meeting.

agm-start-tweet1

Our Chair, Dave Woolley, set out BSC’s achievements last year, confirming that the Consortium now has 41 members, has grown and developed thanks to the support of those members and the financial investment made by Fulfilling Lives Newcastle Gateshead. He thanked Fulfilling Lives for awarding us the contract to deliver the client facing operation side of this innovative programme, which helps people with multiple and complex needs. Without this investment the Consortium would not have developed.

dave-chairing-tweet1

We said goodbye to two Board members; Mike Halsey of Key Enterprises, standing down from the Board after putting in a lot of work to help establish the Consortium, and to Nancy Doyle who has moved on to be Chief Executive of Virgin Money Foundation. Dave thanked them both and we will stay in touch with them.

The meeting appointed Steve Nash (VOLSAG), Neil Board (Changing Lives) and David Smith (Oasis Aquila Housing) to the Board.

Finally, Dave presented the Consortium’s future plans, including

  1. Continuing to support the delivery of the Fulfilling Lives programme
  2. Delivering our Blue Stone Rights Project
  3. Pursuing the opportunities around Well Newcastle Gateshead
  4. Continuing to seek business opportunities that ensure the Consortium is sustainable in 2017/18 and beyond.
  5. Continuing work to develop a common vision for the Consortium’s work across Newcastle and Gateshead.
  6. Developing the Consortium’s offer so that it is as clear and focused as possible.

Neil Shashoua, our Business Development Manager informed the meeting that the Consortium’s income in 2015/16 was £431,173 and our expenditure was £422,043; leaving a healthy balance of £9,131.

Almost all of our income was from the Fulfilling Lives contract and 92% of spend was to the six member organisations that we contract with to deliver the programme, using only 8% of our income to run and develop the Consortium and manage the Fulfilling Lives contract. In 2016/17 we have other income streams and are less dependent on last year’s sole source of funding.

The Consortium’s new focus on health, care and wellbeing

Brendan Hill, Chief Executive of the Concern Group and one of our trustees, presented the Board’s thinking on the future focus of the Consortium. The population needs are rapidly evolving; the social determinants of health, how society provides support and care for the vulnerable and the urgent need to prioritise prevention, are all challenges that government and public services are facing.

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He noted that the voluntary and community sector and our members specifically already do, and increasingly will play an integral role in supporting individuals, communities and vulnerable groups to lead valued lives. As a result of this, the Consortium’s Board wishes to promote our potential as a key partner in developing solution-focused approaches from member organisations already involved across a broad spectrum of projects, initiatives and services supporting health, care and wellbeing

He proposed that this needs to be the primary focus of the Consortium going forward and he asked for the meeting’s views on this focus on two initial priorities based on soundings taken from the membership

  • young people and families
  • those with complex needs

both of these priorities include using intergenerational approaches for delivery.

The discussion that followed covered the important role Consortium members have in audience-5smldiverting people away from care and preventing them becoming ill or their condition deteriorating such that more intensive healthcare is needed.

Listening to our members

Dr Jan Myers from Northumbria University’s Business School then presented the findings of her survey of our members.

She noted that 55% of the membership responded and most of those responding were medium sized organisations. Overall, members provided a wide range of services to a wide range of people in Newcastle and Gateshead, with people with mental health problems, learning difficulties and carers being the top three categories.

jan-myers-tweet-1Members face a number of challenges; all but one experienced an increase in demands for its services over the last 12 months and most are dealing with reduced income whilst aiming to sustain their much needed services.

The level of income from grants has continued to reduce with more organisations reliant on contract income. Given that larger organisations have been in a better position to attract contracts than smaller ones, Dr Myers underlined the usefulness of having a consortium of small, medium and large organisations working together to secure resources to benefit people in the area.

Over half the respondents had no or less than 3 months reserves. Those with reserves anticipate using them to cover core costs and meet budget deficits.

Our members are uncertain as to the impact of Brexit and the halting of the North East devolution process. However, they have practical support and skills to offer each other.

Dr Myers will continue to work with the Consortium to better understand the needs of members and how members can support each other by exchanging skills and practical support.

The next three speakers illustrated ways in which they are working with the Consortium to improve the quality of life and wellbeing of disadvantaged people in Gateshead and Newcastle.

A single point of commissioning – Blue Stone Rights Project

Michael Fawole of the North East Law Centre talked about how his organisation is working with the Consortium to enhance the work of members by helping them introduce legal and human rights work.

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The project is a good example of how a funder can use the Consortium as a single point with which to work with a range of diverse providers.

With £28,600 of funding over two years from the Baring Foundation, the Consortium and Law Centre have set up a project to bring together nine of the Consortium’s members with the Law Centre to raise their awareness of legal and human rights approaches and help them to introduce and monitor the use of those approaches to improve the help they can give to their beneficiaries.

To date, the Law Centre has held workshops with Newcastle YMCA and Skills for People and has dates in the diary for workshops with Newcastle Carers, and Streetwise. Workshops with Children North East, the Angelou Centre, Involve North East, and Riverside Community Health Project are being arranged.

Brokering relationships and opportunities

Newcastle’s Help Through Crisis bid – how the Consortium helped bring together partners to win a bid.

In late 2015 the Consortium brought together a number of its members to develop a bid for the Big Lottery’s Help Through Crisis Fund, in Newcastle. Neil Baird of Changing Lives presented the useful role the Consortium played as an ‘honest broker’ to gather members to explore developingneil-baird-tweet-1 a bid to this fund, which is  aimed at people facing hardship. In the end, three of the organisations went on to bid successfully for £500,000 over 5 years to deliver a project to provide tailored support, advice and advocacy to enable families to address difficulties and be in a better position to improve circumstances and plan for their future.

The partnership, led by Newcastle Law Centre, has contracted with the Consortium to be the independent chair of the project steering group, to give all partners an equal voice in the governance of the project.

Can the Consortium help communities create, connect, and aspire to improve the health of the poorest, fastest?

Professor Chris Drinkwater, Chair of Ways to Wellness and long term champion for reducing health inequalities, presented the meeting with an exciting initiative with the Consortium to improve the health of people in some of our most deprived areas in Newcastle and Gateshead.

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He is working with Well North, an initiative to develop pathfinders in some of the poorest parts of the North of England, to develop the next pathfinder in Newcastle Gateshead. The Consortium’s Board has set up a committee to lead the development of Well Newcastle Gateshead, focussing on improving the health of people in four parts of the area, majoring on work with

  • children 2 to 7, their parents and grandparents
  • adults, to improve their mental health and be more socially connected

by using arts, heritage and culture to help people have fun by using their creativity, connecting them together, and helping them aspire to be more active and healthy.

If the Well North Board accepts the proposal, they will release £1m over four years, matched by £200,000 from each of Gateshead and Newcastle local authorities. Arts and place-based voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations would deliver much of this work.

After questions to the speakers, it was over to the participants to discuss

  • how could they make use of the Consortium in the next 12 months
  • their thoughts on the Consortium’s new area of focus and where they see themselves contributing and benefitting from it.

It was clear from the discussions that members and supporters want

  • Help to identify business opportunities
  • Linking in with existing Consortium initiatives, such as Well Newcastle Gateshead
  • More communications with funders to help providers reduce/avoid duplication and to bring members and funders together
  • Connections with national and strategic bodies
  • Greater focus on asset based approaches that are genuinely people led

There was also support for the Consortium’s new focus on health, care and wellbeing.

The meeting ended with tea and cake provided by the lovely people at Gateshead Advice Centre.

Thank you!

Have you met Josephine and Jack?

These life size and anatomically correct cloth people are a unique learning resource for people with learning disabilities and are one of the legacies of Them Wifies, the Newcastle based community arts organisation that closed last year after 36 years of service supporting disadvantaged communities in the North East. Them Wifies, a member of the Consortium, transferred Josephine and Jack to Monkfish Productions CIC (who recently joined the Consortium) to use in a range of workshops exploring health, sexual health and wellbeing.

Monkfish Productions has found their work with Josephine and Jack so successful that they are creating a new home for both and have announced that, with support from Newcastle Council for Voluntary Service (NCVS), they have registered The Josephine and Jack Project (JJP) with the Charity Commission as The Josephine and Jack Project, an independent charity!

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Barbra Robson, Thomas Doukas and Claire Murphy-Morgan, with Josephine and Jack

The new charity will be chaired by Barbra Robson, the former Chief Executive of Them Wifies. The other Trustees are Claire Murphy-Morgan of Monkfish and Thomas Doukas from Choice Support.

For the time being, on the surface, little will change. Monkfish will continue to deliver the existing Josephine and Jack work while the charity begins to apply for its own core and development funding (under license from Monkfish). Only when this funding is secured, will Josephine and Jack move to their new home. They will keep their supporters posted via a party, Facebook page, Twitter account and website.

In the meantime, the arts side of Monkish Productions will continue to develop its own projects – including the very exciting “Pas Moi” project that we’ll be running in Broadacre House, Newcastle in autumn 2016, with support from the Arts Council. They will also be relaunching their Poetry Booth – so watch this space!

If you want to know more, please contact Simon James at simon@monkfishproductions.org and visit http://monkfishproductions.org/about