Author: Caroline Masundire

/ Articles posted by Caroline Masundire
Intern opportunities in Edinburgh and London

Intern opportunities in Edinburgh and London

Rocket Science is recruiting for two interns, one in London and the other in Edinburgh.

London Intern – £19,013 p.a. pro-rata plus benefits (London Living Wage) – APPLICATION PROCESS EXTENDED TO 2 JUNE 2017

Edinburgh Intern – £15,307.50 – pro-rata plus benefits – APPLICATIONS NOW CLOSED

We are looking for two interns to join our company and help us deliver an exciting portfolio of consultancy projects, ranging from reviews and consultation through to evaluations and social impact measurement.  We are passionate about social justice, working with government departments and national organisations right through to charities and organisations delivering frontline services. The work is varied, challenging and rewarding.

We have a long standing and highly regarded internship programme and we provide careful support and a structured experience of practical work to help interns develop their skills and experience.  A proportion of our interns progress to consultancy posts – this depends both on the health of the market and on vacancies.    We have been accredited at Silver Standard for both Investors in People and Investors in Young People and were one of the first businesses in Scotland to be accepted in terms of the Scottish Business Pledge.

For information on the job description and details on how to to apply click the relevant link below:

Research Intern job description April 2017 (London) OPEN UNTIL 2 JUNE 2017

Research Intern job description April 2017 (Edinburgh) NOW CLOSED

DEADLINE FOR APPLICATIONS FOR LONDON POST IS THE 2ND OF JUNE 2017

We are recruiting

We are recruiting

 

Rocket Science is currently recruiting for three positions, a Projects and Operations Manager and Consultant for our London office and an intern for our Edinburgh office.

London roles

Project and Operations Manager – £35,000 to £40,000 plus benefits

We currently manage a number of high-profile grants programmes and became an approved supplier of Grants and Programmes Services for Sport England and the UK Government this year. We want to build and diversify our programme management services and the role of Project and Operations Manager is key to helping us realise this ambition. Although grants experience would be helpful, we are more interested in your project management skills and ability to work creatively with clients to help win work and develop efficient ways of delivering programmes working with our online grants software.

Click here to download the job description and details on how to apply

Experienced consultant – £28,000 to £35,000 – plus benefits

We provide a wide range of consultancy services to public, private and third sector clients and are looking for an for an experienced consultant or someone with the equivalent skills to help us deliver our work in London and across the UK.  You will have at least 2-3 years experience and interested in developing your skills and experience further through our research, evaluation and support services, delivering high quality solutions that meet the needs of our clients.  This role is suitable for someone with prior consultancy experience, or who has worked within a policy or research function.

Click here to download the job description and details on how to apply

Edinburgh role

Intern – £15,307.50 – pro-rata plus benefits

We have a long standing and highly regarded internship programme and we provide careful support and a structured experience of practical work to help interns develop their skills and experience.  A proportion of our interns progress to consultancy posts – this depends both on the health of the market and on vacancies.    We have been accredited at Silver Standard for both Investors in People and Investors in Young People and were one of the first businesses in Scotland to be accepted in terms of the Scottish Business Pledge.

We are now looking for a curious and committed intern to support our work for a negotiable period in our Edinburgh office.

Click here to download the job description and details on how to apply

DEADLINE FOR APPLICATIONS IS NOON ON FRIDAY 9TH (EDINBURGH) AND MONDAY 12TH (LONDON) DECEMBER 2016

Helping small charities to survive? We are down to the wire

Helping small charities to survive? We are down to the wire

Many small and medium sized charities are bearing the brunt of austerity – losing grants and contracts whilst managing increasing demand for their services which are no longer funded. In any other situation you would want to throw in the towel, pack up and go home.

• Decisions to reduce public funding have meant that only those with high needs or tick a box get supported – effectively withdrawing help for swathes of people who still need it, yet are no longer eligible
• This in turn has created a fight for survival and increased competition as organisations cross borders and service boundaries to secure contracts and funding in areas where they may have little experience or knowledge
• So when services get recommissioned through a single contract only those organisations with the balance sheet, resources and approach to risk are fit to apply and/or have the security of TUPE commitments on their side… and it is not just the private sector
• Funders may be reluctant to plug the gap in statutory services, favouring new, innovative solutions to problems which they can pump-prime, yet will be difficult to sustain once their funding ends
• Which in turn creates further competition for limited resources and investment goes to those that can demonstrate ‘my impact is bigger than yours’
• Meanwhile people that need services and support go to the organisation they trust and have built a relationship with, which is no longer funded to help them. Yet it finds a way.

This story is by no means new –this has been happening for years but it is having a compounding effect, not just on the smaller and medium sized VCS but most importantly on the people that need their help. The unintended consequences of service design, commissioning and funding decisions are taking their toll and causing people such additional stress that their mental health suffers.  Navigating public services makes their challenges much greater than they needed to be.

People need to talk to someone when they are in crisis, we are human after all. An online service may help signpost you to services if you know what you are looking for, or give you an email address to get in touch with someone – that is if you have an email address, access to a device or mobile. I wrote last year about Dorothy, an elderly lady who had effectively been neglected by public services and was just about managing to live independently with the support of neighbours. It took me nearly an hour negotiating around the ‘computer says no’ culture of the bank to get them to send her a cheque book so she could get money out of her account. The reliance on ‘digital by default’ as the panacea for citizen interaction is ill-judged and poorly thought through.

Equally no amount of ‘nudge theory’ is going to help someone with a learning disability who does not understand that if they do not attend an assessment interview with DWP, they will lose their disability benefit. Even if a letter is sent to them three times – it does not help them understand it any better. They just get sanctioned, lose their benefit, go into crisis and all the arrangements that have taken years to build around their life fall apart.

And if you have multiple needs then be prepared for lots of different assessments in different places by different organisations to access services that are not joined up and compete with each other.

I accept this may not be the experience of everyone, but it is happening to a significant number of people, who, already vulnerable and at risk, are caught in the (muddled) middle.

It is in his muddled middle where the true value of small and medium sized charities comes into play, as they help people to navigate through systems and services, assessments and appointments. Often this work is unpaid, yet critical to wiring public services together, but an activity which is generally hidden and hard to measure.

The Lloyds Bank Foundation, is actively championing small and medium-sized charities and has produced sobering evidence on the impact of funding and commissioning across the country. It makes recommendations around changes to commissioning, flexibility around funding and improved grant-making practice.

However, as statutory funding reduces and competition for grants to plug gaps increases, small and medium sized charities will inevitably face difficult decisions about their future. These decisions are ultimately influenced by the extent to which public agencies, funders and other stakeholders are prepared to change, do things differently and work together. The trouble is change takes time and time is something that we have very little of.

Caroline Masundire

Rocket Science is hosting an event on 4th October with London Funders on what works in helping organisations become more resilient and help their sustainability.
Find out more here.

Tough at the top for a trustee

Tough at the top for a trustee

Becoming a trustee of a community organisation or member of a management committee can be both rewarding and daunting in equal measure.  I have been a trustee in a number of organisations of various sizes and reach and have found my experiences to be very different in all cases including setting up a community organisation as well as helping to close one down.

Reflecting on these experiences, and regardless of the size of the organisation I have learned the importance of

  • having clear roles and accountability,
  • a trusted and respectful relationship between trustees and
  • above all remaining focused on the purpose of the organisation and protecting the interests of the people and communities they were serving.

Many of the organisations I work with on a day to day basis are predominantly small, work for and are based in local communities and are mainly run by volunteers with some paid staff.  They often comment on their difficulty in recruiting new trustees as well as helping the organisation move forward, particularly at a time where money and funding is tight but not feeling able to make change for fear of failure, lack of resource and sometimes lack of energy.  I am sure many organisations feel this way whether they are large or small.

As a trustee it can definitely feel tough at the top!

When you are reviewing your governance arrangements or going through some form of change and transition (i.e. a new direction, project) or recruiting new people to your board getting the following three things right will ensure a much more effective outcome for your organisation:

Clear roles and accountability

This is obviously important, but you need to make sure that you are using your skills and expertise appropriately and spread work equally amongst the board so that individuals do not feel overburdened with responsibility. It also helps share expertise.  Where you have gaps in skills actively recruit people to fill those gaps or use short-term volunteer support instead.

A trusted and respectful relationship

When new people join or you are just beginning spending time building your relationship is really important.  It took me quite a few months to find my feet in my first trustee role, it felt very overwhelming at the beginning and I was not effective until about four months into my role.

You must also think about how you work together as a team and how you behave as all of these things impact on the effectiveness of your meetings and your ability to make good decisions.  Remember being challenging is important but not for the hell of it and making a decision (positive or negative) is better than going around in circles from meeting to meeting.

Remain focused on the purpose and interests of the communities you are supporting

And finally, but probably most importantly is making sure that every decision you make as a trustee is in the best interests of the communities you are supporting.  This might appear to be an obvious statement, but I have seen some instances where decisions made at the board level should have been taken earlier or been entirely different.  This would have avoided some of the challenges and difficult decisions that came later on down the line.

There are many tools and products to help organisations move forward, find out more about how Rocket Science can help here  or get in touch with Caroline Masundire. 

What about Dorothy? How our services fail the vulnerable

What about Dorothy? How our services fail the vulnerable

Dorothy is 94, living alone, her husband died 25 years ago and with no children or family living near she relies on a telecare kit, an hour of care a day and more recently a meals on wheels service which brings her a meal to microwave each day. Her next door neighbour gets her some shopping each week and she relies on the good will of the other residents in the block to help her out.

Last Tuesday she had another fall, trying to get up from her chair to get to her bedroom.  She had called an ambulance, but it had not arrived, so she rang my partner, who lives nearby to come and help her.  Within ten minutes he had arrived but could not get in as the carer who attended that day did not replace the key in the secure box.  So she had to shuffle her way on her knees to the door to open it for him.  The ambulance men arrived a little later but decided she was well enough to remain at home. This is not the first time she has fallen.

Earlier in the summer we received an anxious call from her, she had arrived back from hospital the previous day after a fall earlier in the week (something down to blood pressure and medication).  She had spent the last twenty four hours without electricity or heating, her services had been turned off whilst she was away but no one had checked to turn them back on when she was sent home.  She had not eaten anything as the food in the fridge had gone off and she could not make herself a hot drink.  My partner went to help her, turned the utilities back on and brought her some provisions to help see her through.  She decided to pay for meals on wheels so she would not be put in that situation again.

When we saw her a couple of days later she said she was ok, but really missed cooking for herself and really wanted to eat some pasta.  So every time we make a bolognese we do a portion for her and buy her some ready meals when we go shopping if we remember.

We popped round to see her on Saturday to see how she was doing and if she needed anything.   She was still aching from her fall but was getting worried about her money situation.   She uses cheques to pay for bills and to get money out (through another neighbour who does her shopping).  But she had only one cheque left, our first reaction was that perhaps her replacement book had been stolen, banks usually send these out automatically.  We rang the bank for her and after ten minutes of the usual automated system we got through to a person.  I explained the difficulty of the situation, Dorothy has hearing problems and cannot see very well.  But we had to go through security questions and explain to Dorothy that she needed to respond.  Some half an hour later the adviser spoke to us and explained that the bank does not send out chequebooks, this policy stopped some time ago and they have to be requested by phone or in person at the bank. We explained about Dorothy’s situation but there is nothing they could do, other than rely on someone to order a book with her next time.

Reflecting on Dorothy’s situation made me realise how difficult her life is made.  She wants to remain independent in her flat, something all public service organisations want as it is much cheaper than providing full time care in a home.  Her carers are all different, so she does not get the chance to form a relationship or bond with them, sometimes she cannot tell who is a carer as they change so often.  Her reliance on her neighbours means that she can live her life, but these neighbours are also getting older and more frail and likely to need support too in the future.  The local area is changing, flats are being taken over by private landlords and people are coming and going, so it is much harder to know and build a relationship with a neighbour.  Her financial situation makes her vulnerable to people who may use the opportunity to take advantage of this.  There is no other support for her.

And I have to ask myself why are we not getting the basics of living right for those older and more vulnerable people in our society? 

Personally I think we (policymakers, commissioners and funders) are so caught up with chasing the next big thing in public service design, responding to cuts, reducing demand and looking to scale and replicate what works, that we are neglecting to get the basics and fundamentals right.   Impact maps, disruptive innovation, innovation in technology, social action what do all these things mean to people in situations like Dorothy?

Situations where you cannot scale and replicate support that requires such individual attention or people are living in areas where there is a clear deficit in social and community capital and little motivation or investment to help stimulate it.  Where technology serves to frustrate rather than enhance someone’s life and your ability to survive and remain independent is at the mercy of the goodwill and trustworthy nature of your neighbours or family (if you have one).

We need to reboot our thinking and actions and we need to do it quickly and when we are looking at designing an approach, fund or service then ask ourselves a fundamental question before we go ahead… what about people like Dorothy?

Till next time
Caroline Masundire

Health – a question of Sport?

Health – a question of Sport?

Give health a sporting chance

So the NHS is going to be bankrupted by an obesity epidemic, participation in physical activity despite the ‘olympic effect’  has fallen prompting a government consultation into why this is the case and sitting at your desk all day is bad for your heart. We instinctively know all of this, exercise is good, excess calories are bad, lethargy leads to illness and sugary foods lead to obesity.  The correlation between inactive and unhealthy lifestyles and costs on health services is well documented but reversing this negative impact is much harder and more complicated than we realise.

For those of you that know me, you would probably be forgiven for thinking that I am not that interested in sport per se.   Back in the early noughties and in the days of area-based funding programmes and ‘action zone-itis’ of the first Blair government, I ran an action learning and  development programme over three years for Sport Action Zones, (SAZ).  These worked in a number of areas across England to raise the participation levels of communities in sports and physical activities.  The programme had a lot of success in raising participation, not least because of the partnership approach and linking of sport to other funding pots and wider social outcomes.  The new Sports Minister,  Tracey Crouch could learn a lot from the SAZ experience, in that structures to make it happen and investment to make participation sustainable needs to be in place. But its not just about funding and infrastructure.

My experience of sport, like many others, was informed from my school days. Being a plump child and not particularly good at anything, I was often left standing in my aertex top, plimsolls and chest high PE knickers in the blistering rain, waiting to be picked reluctantly by a fit, competent team captain.

My PE teachers were not much better, their focus was on winning coveted inter-school competitions and stragglers and poor performers like myself were, at best, tolerated and at worst ignored.  My parents could not have been more disinterested in sport and did not encourage any of us to take part in activities.  So if  campaigns like This Girl Can were around in my day, I am sure this would have motivated me and many others who had little direction and role models to keep on trying.

It was based on my experiences that I was determined that my children would find an interest in some form of physical activity, to ensure that my history did not repeat itself. My daughter found kick-boxing and my son found football, despite neither of them having a good experience with sport at school.  This meant lots of trips, forgoing Saturday and Sunday mornings to ferry him around to matches and events and the cost of replacing equipment particularly football boots every few months to cope with ever expanding feet.  My kids continue in physical activity now they are older and I put this down to them having opportunities and a supportive single parent with sufficient resources to make it happen.

It should come as no surprise that my conclusions about healthy and active lifestyles are rooted in our early experience and dependent on the following conditions:

  • Parents/Guardians have to play a critical role in encouraging, supporting and motivating their children to take part in activities, regardless of their abilities
  • Parents/Guardians have to have the time and financial resources and access to transport to support this participation
  • Schools need to work with parents/guardians and recognise the value that extra-curricular activities have on a child’s development and reinforce positive messages about participation regardless of ability.

Taking this further, active participation in physical activity in adulthood comes down to having the time, resources and confidence to take part.  I discovered I was a reasonable swimmer in my thirties and really enjoyed it, swimming up to three miles a week.  But sustaining it was a problem because of working, commuting and family commitments which meant that something had to give way in my life. Now some of those responsibilities have abated I am looking to start swimming again but the cost of using a private gym where I can be guaranteed of a lane is going to set me back a pretty penny. 

But participation is also linked to facilities that fit around people’s lifestyles and culture. A small group of muslim women I work with really want to take part in women only swimming sessions, but lack of transport, cost and suitability of the facilities have so far served as barriers for taking part. They are not a big enough group to make it worthwhile for a dedicated session and will find a regular routine difficult to maintain with their caring responsibilities.  The costs of setting something up to cater specifically for these needs would be seen as disproportionate.

My point is that raising participation is not easy, when you factor in personal choice, family circumstances, resources and access.

European Sports Week starts in earnest in a couple of weeks time building european-wide momentum to drive sports participation.  And small grant programmes like Freesport we manage on behalf of the Mayor for London provide an essential lifeline to communities to take part in local activities.  But if we are to reverse the health challenges facing us through physical activity then we need a coordinated approach and one where we can make a generational difference.  Lets start with families and schools.

Caroline Masundire