Building new routes to better outcomes
Ongoing austerity, social care pressures, rising demand, committed yet stretched workforces — there has been no let-up in the now familiar challenges local services are facing.
However, while day-to-day strains remain part of the day job, people in many places across the country are finding — or deliberately creating — the space to explore how we will achieve sustainable social change in today’s complex world.
That is why an independent funder, Lankelly Chase, and Collaborate CIC, are working with Barking & Dagenham LBC in a new, long-term partnership that will build new routes to better outcomes for local people.
Together we want to create systems that are effective in responding to the interlocking nature of severe disadvantages such as homelessness, drug misuse, abuse and mental ill health. In Barking & Dagenham, this is also about creating the conditions that enable the most marginalised people to benefit from the significant growth opportunities in the borough.
Our lens is broad: we think that this is about place, community, civic participation and the role of a wide range of sectors and organisations, and the interactions between them — the whole system. We want to understand how we can mobilise the collective resource of the system in pursuit of better outcomes for individuals and their communities.
While this partnership is new, some of the ideas are not. Initiatives such as neighbourhood renewal, Total Place and neighbourhood management all had ingredients of local collaboration and community-building.
So what is different about this work? Our starting point is to enable the right behaviours to flourish at every level. This requires building open, trusting relationships that enable effective dialogue. It requires us to see all people as resourceful and bringing strengths from their different perspectives, and that we are committed to learning and experimenting as we go.
One thing seems clear: we need to shift away from a silo approach to public services, where specific services or sectors address specific problems, and move towards a more integrated and collaborative approach, which recognises the complex and interrelated nature of most problems. We think changes must follow in the way we design, fund, commission and deliver services, and the way we think about social support and participation beyond the service lens. We need to consider how we can use power differently and create space for those we often marginalise.
We think this means that all sectors and actors in a place need to reflect on, and possibly recast, their role to understand how to collectively affect system change. We also see an interesting new system leadership role for local authorities emerging, which focuses on building the narrative for change, the behaviours and relationships that will enable it and the conditions for others to participate.
Barking & Dagenham is a brave and ambitious local authority which, under the leadership of Cllr Darren Rodwell and chief executive Chris Naylor, has begun to create the conditions for new ways of working. And although the 2016 Growth Commission identified significant opportunities, there are a number of challenges that need to be addressed if the holy grail of inclusive growth is to be achieved with and for the borough’s residents.
Local partners, working through the reformed local delivery partnership, have produced an ambitious long-term manifesto, setting out the improvements in outcomes that they will work towards together to ensure that the benefits of growth are shared.
The council is also redesigning many of its services through its Community Solutions model, and has agreed to invest in and host ‘Every One, Every Day’, an innovative five-year project that will enable communities to grow their own participatory projects in their neighbourhoods. The aim is to create a density of small-scale activities that promises new routes to better outcomes beyond the traditional public service services.
We hope to build on these initiatives to create a genuinely collective approach to social change in the borough.
Collaborate CIC has begun by talking to local partners about how we can begin to translate their ambitions into a new model that builds on the strengths of local people, as well as a range of organisations. We are also working closely with the Barking & Dagenham delivery partnership, support partners and system leaders to build readiness to work in new ways together.
For all of us, place-based system change represents an ambitious approach, with real long-term potential. Our three organisations have committed to working together over the next three years, creating space to invest in the culture and behaviour change in the borough that we believe will be needed. Through the collaboration of funder, intermediary and place, we hope that our different perspectives, skills and knowledge will both support real system change in Barking & Dagenham, and help build the field of system change in public services.
We will also share our learning with other areas as we go, helping to create the space that system leaders in other areas need to explore new ways to improve the lives of the most vulnerable people in our communities.
Anna Randle is executive director at Collaborate CIC, Alice Evans is director of system change at Lankelly Chase, and Monica Needs is community enterprise manager at Barking & Dagenham LBC
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