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If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together

~ African Proverb~

Welcome to the first in the Connectivity Programme Blog series. For many years we have, as a sector, been making advancements in the key areas of our work, but there is still a way to go given the complex needs of the communities we serve. Training and meaningful network development in the sector will increase our capacity and capability to do more and to do it better.

A lot of research and development has been done to assist in highlighting the factors involved in meeting community needs and removing the barriers that impact on the BAME VC sectors ability to achieve success and create longer lasting impact. Research back in 2011 by Voices for Change found several key barriers that impacted on the BAME VCS being able to grow and develop;  here is brief summary of what they found:

Capacity and Capability - research found that organisations within the Sector, especially BAME organisations could benefit from developing further skills and qualities in the areas required. This could be anything from developing financial literacy, management, programme/project development, bid writing to leadership and policy formation. It is about having the right people that are skilled and supported to meet the objectives set.

Cultural and Political - understanding and navigating the cultural and political landscape, locally, nationally and globally is key to sustainability and fundraising. A deficit in this area can cost organisations hugely in the long run. Many organisations struggle to read what is happening both internally and externally that will directly affect their ability to deliver. For example the work of Kid’s Company – they had a strong understanding of the political climate and built great relationships with the key players but did not have the infrastructure in place to maintain a financially viable and empowered organisation leading to it’s very public closure.

Reputation and Responsibility - BAME organisations have reported a difficulty in building reputation amongst funders, councils and the communities they serve. Understanding how developing networks enable you to build a reputation in the community and sector are vital to creating lasting impact and success. Shared responsibility is an area that needs work and because this is not happening as readily as it could. The more this is developed the stronger the sector will become in action and voice.

Trust and Respect - Researchers found after interview that relationships within the sector could go further and building trusting and trusted networks support the development and sustainability of the VCS organisations. Connection cannot be sort without trust and respect and this will be built and earned through the agreed activities set out in the programme aims. Through the development of a strengthened leadership network, shared measures and collaboration will bring about the needed opportunities to create trust and respect throughout the programme, sector and communities.

Finance and Funding -Another significant barrier is the drop in funding and the smaller the VCS the less likely they are to get funding to aid projects, due to a number of factors including access, opportunity and capacity, limiting the BAME communities ability to solve its problems.

It has also been reported that financial planning within the sector should be supported and developed in order to allow for organisations to understand the ‘business’ of community work to create financially empowered organisations that can respond and flex to emerging community needs as well as the everyday activities bringing success. Trust and respect was found to be one of the limiting reasons joint-funding and resource sharing is limited in BAME organisations.

If you want to go fast...

Kamia and Kramer (2011) found that traditional community and charity models “create independent organisations... doing great work for the local community need yet unable to impact on the system or solve the underlying social issue(s).” We continue to yield the results of silo-working, bearing small pockets of success but with no long term, lasting impact resulting in what they termed, “Isolated Impact.” So how do we assist in removing the key barriers? Where do we start to reduce this ‘isolated impact? 

Collective Impact

Research has been clear in this area, using collective impact within your approach produces significant positive results when applied to complex social issues and is successful when they have “five conditions that together produce true alignment and lead to powerful results” and given the time for transformation (Kamia and Kramer 2011). It is important to note that this takes time, we cannot expect overnight success but what we can see significant positive impact for the community groups that have used this approach in recent years.

“The Collective Impact approach is premised on the belief that no single policy, government department, organisation or programme can tackle or solve the increasingly complex social problems we face as a society.” (Kamia and Kramer 2011)

 “We need more, better, and better-connected services (Collective Impact ~ westlondonzone.org)

If you want to go far..

The Collective Impact Approach is a model designed to assist in removing these barriers and working not just together but with meaningful commitment and collaboration, to aid learning across the sector and develop strong and connected leadership and organisational networks.

The Common Agenda - participants create a shared vision for change including a common understanding of the problem and a joint approach to solving it through agreed upon actions – within Connectivity, partners will have distinct characteristics, skills and attributes to assist in creating a common agenda that fits the overall aims. It is important to highlight here that a common agenda needs to be developed and agreed by all partners, this is the starting point for trust and ownership to be developed, understood and respected.

Shared measurement - collecting data and sharing results consistently across all partners ensures that efforts remain aligned and participants hold each other accountable. Within connectivity if a participant is asked to present key findings from a recent project this will aid the bid writing for an organisation as they will have recent data from within the community.  There is a wealth of data collected in various arenas regarding the BAME issues but not everyone has access and not everyone is measured in the same way. Connectivity will support the sharing of this data and creating its own shared measurements within the partner group.

Mutually reinforcing activities - participant activities must be differentiated while still being coordinated through a mutually reinforcing plan of action. Connecting the right organisations is key to success in building capacity and capability within the sector. Diversity in community activities and around the table is key to creating sustainability, but also in understanding the political and cultural drivers that impact on them; it is vital to have each playing a very distinct role within the agenda and as such bringing a unique, diverse and strengthened approach to the issues being solved and therefore removing the likelihood of ‘isolated impact’.

Continuous Communication - consistent and open communication is needed across all players to build trust, assure mutual objectives and create common motivation ; Kamia and Kramer clearly understood the importance of building (rebuilding) within the organisations involved. Accountability is key to successful outcomes for your communities – if everyone is clear of the vision, what their role is and what they are expected to be responsible for achieving. The Connectivity programme aims to develop a number of accessible mediums to create a space for continuous, meaningful communications that will allow for strategic and relevant conversations, projects and collaborations all partners involved and ultimately realising the overarching vision.

Backbone support - creating and maintaining collective impact requires a separate organisation(s) with staff and a specific skill set to serve as the backbones for the entire initiative. The backbones of Connectivity Programme are BTEG and the City Bridge Fund but they are not alone. Three key backbone organisations working in partnership with us are Croydon BME Forum, Selby Trust and Council of Somali Organisations each formed knowing or unknowingly with the Collective Impact Approach in mind have chosen some of their BME organisations to assist in the growth and development of their communities.

Go together…

The Connectivity programme will connect the BAME sector to have a stronger presence and this can only be achieved by having a stronger collective infrastructure, a stronger brand and a stronger collective voice through a range of development and support activities with the selected partners with a plan to create meaningful, lasting collaborations that bring about meaningful and lasting change by:

  • Being better equipped to establish and develop collaborations 

  • Effectively utilise the skills, time and resources through meaningful collaboration

  • Understanding the risks and responsibilities when working in collaboration

  • Increased awareness and access to organisations across the sector and wider

  • Increased confidence in leading and managing change

  • Strengthening voices on key issues affecting BAME communities

If you would like more information on how you can get involved or want to know more send an email to simone@bteg.co.uk

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