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Opinions and insights from the Rocket Science team

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


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.

BIDs  . . . Boris 50, Sadiq ??

BIDs . . . Boris 50, Sadiq ??

What could Sadiq Khan do for BIDs in London?

One of Boris Johnson’s final acts as Mayor of London was to announce he had achieved his 2012 manifesto target of seeing 50 Business Improvement Districts set up in the capital. London’s reaching 50 BIDs (almost a quarter of the total in the UK) does not mean we are at saturation point. Several of the 14 boroughs which have not embraced BIDs are considering their feasibility, including Wandsworth, Tower Hamlets and Haringey.  However, the 50 BID milestone is an opportune moment to reflect on what BIDs have achieved, their strengths and weaknesses and how the new Mayor of London may decide to enable them to work more collaboratively with other partners who are interested in the place-shaping of London’s many different communities.

The first BID in London, Kingston First, was set up in 2005 and in 2015 entered its third 5-year term. Term renewal is regarded as one of the most telling indicators of a BID’s success.  All BIDs in the capital which have held renewal ballots since 2012 have seen an increase in turnout and approval rates.  And yet, whilst London’s BIDs seem here to stay, they still face considerable challenges:

  • Cuts in local government funding mean that BIDs have an opportunity to expand their responsibilities and importance, but this also threatens their raison d’etre as business-led membership organisations which, first and foremost, exist to add value to statutory provision not substitute for it;
  • Opportunities presented by the government’s commitment to devolution and localism also bring risks and uncertainties for BIDs in terms of their financial sustainability, given changes to local government finance, rate revaluation and new taxation mechanisms;
  • Expectations of BIDs to play a role as convenors and enablers of local/neighbourhood plans bring added responsibility and requirements in terms of professional skills, and expectations of greater accountability and transparency to stakeholders other than just a BID’s levy payers.

BIDs appeal to the majority of London’s councils for different reasons. Inevitably, as town halls face further funding cuts, BIDs appear attractive as a money-saving device. Within that framework, some London boroughs adopt a hands-off approach, reaching a baseline-agreement for local services, but largely recognising BIDs’ autonomy as private-sector organisations. In contrast to this laissez-faire approach, others have sought collaboration in the form of public-private partnerships. Councils that have redefined themselves as enablers, see BIDs as integral to establishing new forms of service delivery and stimulating economic growth. Boroughs which have taken this approach include the City of Westminster, now home to eight BIDs; Lambeth (6); Southwark and Camden (4 each).

Westminster, for example, recently instigated regular meetings between the Leader of the Council, the Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Business and Economic Development and the borough’s BID chief executives.  This is a clear signal to the BIDs that they are regarded as key to the economic development of the borough. The meetings enable the BIDs to report back on council services in their areas, but also to identify opportunities for contracting out services, including to local BID partnerships. The council has also encouraged BIDs (eg Victoria and the New West End Company) to support the work of local Neighbourhood Forums; as business led forums they can then access Community Infrastructure Levy funding to support the development of a Neighbourhood Plan.

Lambeth’s transformation into a ‘Cooperative Council’ includes identifying opportunities to break up bigger contracts as they come up for renewal; smaller contracts, delivered more locally, have provided opportunities for BIDs (eg Vauxhall BID taking over management of Vauxhall Park under a council contract). The Council’s bi-monthly BID forum also lets BIDs propose and test new ideas, including South Bank BID’s proposal for a shared apprenticeship scheme.

Systems for engagement need to be robust. There will be occasions when the BID’s and the local authority’s interests conflict. Angel BID, for example, which has a close working relationship with LB Islington, found itself leading a vociferous and ultimately successful community campaign against the council’s proposed parking policy. In Croydon, relations with the BID became temporarily strained last year when the Council’s Labour administration took umbrage at the blue uniforms, along with bowler hats, of the BID’s new Street Ambassadors. They now wear an eye-catching pink.

A recent report[1] commissioned by the GLA and the London Enterprise Panel recommended that the new Mayor should focus less on the setting up of yet more BIDs, but rather find ways to support existing BIDs as agents of local partnership. The growth in number and diversity of BIDs in the capital calls for a greater awareness of the sector’s segmentation, enabling groups of BIDs to collaborate on different issues, as well with the voluntary sub-regional arrangements of boroughs which are linked to London’s devolution proposals. In the meantime, this is happening as much by chance as by design, with an ad hoc mix of BID-financed infrastructure and area-based partnerships in place (eg the Cross River Partnership), providing support for both inter-BID collaboration, as well as cross-borough public-private initiatives.

As, in the words of one BID Chief Executive, the “new kids on the municipal block”, BIDs are quickly having to find their feet in a fast-changing environment for both local government and wider governance arrangements in London.  It will be those BIDs with an enterprising mind set, political nous, an open and supportive relationship with their local community and a propensity to collaborate which succeed.  As new BIDs continue to emerge whilst others grow in maturity, the London BID community will become increasingly diverse.  This will require a variety of different support arrangements and partnerships – both area and issue based – in order to harness BID energies and resources, enabling BIDs to maximise their contribution to tackling London’s policy priorities which is in the interests of both their members and the wider community.

John Griffiths is a Director of Rocket Science and one of the authors of The Evolution of London’s Business Improvement Districts

[1] The Evolution of London’s Business Improvement Districts March 2016

Investing in our People – learning from the New Zealand ‘Investment Approach to Welfare’

Investing in our People – learning from the New Zealand ‘Investment Approach to Welfare’

The evolution of Work Programme (and its devolution to Scottish Government), reducing public budgets, and the increasing welfare element in City Deals provide an opportunity to think radically about the way that we view welfare to work support in the UK. Our conversations with policy makers and providers about this opportunity has revealed a growing interest in the New Zealand ‘Investment Approach to Welfare’.

I arrived at the New Zealand Treasury around the same time the challenge to overhaul the way New Zealand thought about welfare to work support was set by the Minister of Finance. ‘I want to invest in people the same way I invest in capital assets – upfront with benefits flowing later’ appeared to be the mantra from the Cabinet table’s second in command. Nearly five years later, and after much work by Ministers and officials, New Zealand has its ‘Investment Approach to Welfare’ up and running.

…‘I want to invest in people the same way I invest in capital assets – upfront with benefits flowing later’…

The core principle underpinning the ‘Investment Approach’ is that the Government should invest now, to save later. The future cost to the Government of different welfare recipients in expected benefits and other support is estimated to create a ‘life time liability’ value. Any investment now in the individual that reduces their future liability by more than the estimate is encouraged. Here in Scotland, the ‘Investment Approach’ is consistent with the objectives of the Scottish Government Prevention Agenda.

…the ‘Investment Approach’ is consistent with the objectives of the Scottish Government Prevention Agenda…

Rocket Science spent most of 2015 working with the Dundee Local Employability Partnership in order to identify ways to increase the use of preventation in their employability services to reduce the risk of long term unemployment. To see more about our work in Dundee click here.

In the context of static or decreasing public budgets, the ‘Investment Approach’ is also used to focus and prioritise resources within the welfare budget. Those that have the highest expected future liability receive the most support, as this is where the largest future savings from intervening early are available. Those on the New Zealand equivalent of the JSA represent about 5% of the future cost to the Government, but in the past, received most of the support to help them move into work. New Zealand’s analysis confirms something that definitely rings true here in the UK:  that the real gains are to be made by investing in ESA recipients.

… the real gains are to be made by investing in ESA recipients…

The ‘Investment Approach’ is a powerful prevention communication tool and has been incredibly useful in creating a common language and objective for the New Zealand Welfare to Work agenda. With Work Programme Two and more City Deals on the horizon, the UK has a real opportunity to reconceptualise how Welfare to Work support is designed and targeted. The devolution from Westminster to Scotland for designing and delivering employability services that will succeed the current Work Programme and Work Choice support, provides the Scottish Government an opportunity to start the process of developing a distinctly Scottish Apporach to employability support. You can read more on our analysis of the public consultation responses commissioned by Scottish Government here.

New Zealand’s ‘Investment Approach’ and Rocket Science’s understanding of the approach can provide robust insights into how to better invest in our people.  Please get in touch if you want to know more!

By Clare Hammond

Clare is a Senior Consultant at Rocket Science. With a background in economics and public policy, Clare came to us from the New Zealand Treasury where she had exposure to the development and implementation of the ‘Investment Approach to Welfare’ which was spearheaded by a joint working group from the Treasury and the Ministry for Social Development. 

School Ties – enhancing pupils’ employability by working with small businesses

School Ties – enhancing pupils’ employability by working with small businesses

Small businesses are vital partners for schools in helping young people make a successful transition to work.  This is the key conclusion of our new report for the FSB in Scotland, ‘School Ties’, which presents our research into the scale and significance of small business engagement with schools and how to transform its reach and impact.  Although our work was built on interviews across Scotland the conclusions reflect other research across the UK.  Our main findings are:

  • Business engagement with schools – done well – can transform young people’s futures and earnings.  For example, every meaningful engagement with an employer can increase a young person’s subsequent earnings by 4.5% and those who have encountered 4 or more employers while at school are up to 20% less likely to become NEETs
  • It is really important to help small businesses (employing fewer than 50 people) engage with schools.  Most businesses are small businesses (84%-87% in urban Scotland and 93-96% in rural Scotland)) and provide a high proportion of jobs (24% – 36% in urban areas in Scotland – and 60-72% in rural Scotland).  Without engagement with small businesses pupils will be missing out on understanding a key part of the local economy and a significant source of great opportunities.
  • Most small businesses are not involved with schools – mainly because both schools and small businesses find engagement difficult.  It can take schools as much time and effort to set up a relationship with a small employer who may have an occasional opportunity as with a large employer who may have a number of regular opportunities.  It requires sustained effort and energy, with a key role for Head Teachers in creating a profile for their school in local small business networks and organisations.
  • But small businesses are willing partners – engagement needs to be made easy, and many just need to be asked.  Those that are involved cite altruistic reasons for their involvement – small businesses see themselves as part of the local community with a role to play in supporting a range of community issues of which young people’s employability is one.  However, most say that they gain business benefit from engagement – many citing reputational benefits as well as the value of the contribution made by pupils.
  • Schools in the most deprived areas have hinterlands with relatively low levels of small business activity.  They therefore need to spread their net wider to get the range of opportunities they need – and this suggests a collaborative approach with neighbouring schools.
  • In rural areas – where most business are small businesses – it is particularly important for schools to develop a wide range of small business relationships rather than focus on a-typical larger businesses.
  • Small businesses which are involved with schools contribute in a wide range of ways.  It is important that businesses are helped to understand this range of opportunities and match their ability to contribute to the needs of schools and pupils.
  • Teachers can benefit from engagement with pupils as much as pupils – bringing back new insights into how they can use to make their lessons more relevant to the world of work and enhancing their ability to provide useful insights into current and emerging opportunities in local businesses.
  • …and parents – as business owners, employers, and employees – can provide an important way of making connections between schools and businesses.

On the basis of these findings we have developed a number of recommendations about how to transform the scale and reach of school engagement with small businesses and so enhance the opportunities for pupils to match their aptitudes, aspirations and interests with the world of work.  This report is complemented by a recent assignment to review the work experience approach of a large local authority and make recommendations about how this can be placed in a much wider approach to employer engagement.

Download the full report here

…and our previous report on realising the employment potential of micro-businesses here

By Richard Scothorne

If you want to discuss our work in this area please contact Richard Scothorne at [email protected] or 07774 141 610.


The Scottish Approach to employability support – our analysis of the Scottish Government public consultation

The Scottish Approach to employability support – our analysis of the Scottish Government public consultation

The Scottish Government has received devolved responsibility from Westminster for designing and delivering employability services that will succeed the current Work Programme and Work Choice support. This presents an opportunity to design a distinctly Scottish Approach to employability support. As part of this, the Scottish Government ran a public consultation in 2015 to seek public views on what a ‘Scottish Approach’ should look like and how the replacement support should fit into this. Rocket Science was commissioned to analyse the responses.

215 individuals, service providers, and advocacy and support organisations responded. Following a combination of qualitative and quantitative analysis we identified six key messages running through the consultation responses:

That the Scottish Approach to employability support should:

  • Have a person centred, flexible and tailored approach that considers all elements of an individual’s life that affects their employability
  • Be designed and delivered by a partnership of organisation such as central and local government, third sector, and educators
  • Focus on ‘real jobs’ through engaging with employers and creating high quality labour market intelligence, so job seekers are prepared for and directed towards jobs that exist.

That any devolved replacement programme should:

  • Be designed nationally but adapted to the local context and delivered locally
  • Involve contracts that use a combination of payment by job outcome, progression towards work, attachment fees, and should incorporate client feedback as a metric for payment
  • Target those with the highest needs, and focus a separate programme on this group to avoid them getting lost in the crowd.

The full analysis report can be found at:—employability-support—analysis-of-responses.pdf

By Clare Hammond

Clare is a Senior Consultant at Rocket Science. With a background in economics and public policy, Clare came to us from the New Zealand Treasury where she had exposure to the development and implementation of the ‘Investment Approach to Welfare’ which was spearheaded by a joint working group from the Treasury and the Ministry for Social Development.

For more information contact Clare on 0131 226 4949

The Change Ahead – a future for civil society in London

The Change Ahead – a future for civil society in London

Named after Janus, the god of transitions and new beginnings, January is a time when we tend to look backwards to the past and, at the same time, forwards to make potentially life-changing resolutions. A conference held just before Christmas to consider the emerging findings from the review of support for civil society in London felt prematurely Janus-like, torn between these two directions.  The eighty or so delegates were reminded of the maxim that “those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it” whilst there seemed a general acceptance that the environment in which the sector now finds itself means that the status quo is not an option.

The Change Ahead will need to be far reaching, in the same way that, twenty years ago this year, the Deakin Report on the voluntary sector heralded a new settlement for the sector. That report paved the way for nearly fifteen years of heightened prominence for the sector as a trusted partner of the state, and sustained investment by government in the infrastructure of civil society.

Yet one of the more sobering findings of the current review is that, since the going got tougher, the sector has been poor at identifying its support requirements and implementing change. “Despite the numerous reports and reviews carried out in recent years, there is still no shared understanding of the role of civil society support . . . [they] offer long lists of recommendations as to what civil society support organisations should do, without taking into account the limited funding and room for flexibility that their funding allows, and without prioritising roles and responsibilities.”

The following reflections on the Change Ahead are more optimistic; in spite of the continued austerity and the magnitude of the cuts in local government funding (one of the mainstays of support for the sector), there is a genuine opportunity to learn from both past and current practices and a desire to collaborate in order to implement an effective settlement for the c21st.

  1. A broader definition of civil society

A theme running through the conference was an appreciation of the paradox presented by increasing cuts to government funding at a time of ratcheting demand for public services. Collaborate and the Local Government Association estimate a £14.4 billion supply-and-demand gap will emerge for local public services by 2025.  London Councils have argued the gap could be over £3bn in London alone by 2020.  As one delegate remarked, faced by such challenges we must accept there are “no longer any single sector solutions”; no sector (public, private or voluntary) “can afford to sit in splendid isolation” commented another.

In these circumstances, we should be looking for a broader definition of civil society for the 21st century. The one presented by the review seems too narrow; by highlighting the distinctions between the different sectors, it is too last century for our increasingly common purpose: “Civil society is where people take action to improve their own lives or the lives of others and act where government or the private sector don’t. Civil society is driven by the values of fairness and equality, and enables people to feel valued and to belong. It includes formal organisations such as voluntary and community organisations, informal groups of people who join together for a common purpose and individuals who take action to make their community a better place.”  Surely an “enabling state” and an enlightened private sector are just as much part of civil society – and potentially invaluable contributors to it – as voluntary and community organisations, or informal associations?

  1. A new settlement

The economic situation and social conditions in 2015/16 may not be as critical as they were sixty years ago, but a new settlement, as was forged in the post-war consensus, is essential.  Just as Beveridge recognised the importance and value of voluntarism working alongside the arms of the state, more than six decades on government and civil society are as mutually dependent as ever.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer has talked of initiating a “revolution in the way we govern the country”, moving the UK from a “low wage, high tax, high welfare economy, to a higher wage, lower tax, lower welfare country.”  The total % of GDP on public expenditure has already fallen from 43% (2012) to 39.7%; by 2020 it is projected to reach 36.5%.  As Simon  Parker of New Local Government Network has pointed out, a 36.5% state is a return to the state spending levels of the late 1990s.  However, the UK will be vastly different in 2020, with an ageing and increasingly expensive population.

In the meantime, it is local government which is taking the brunt. One HM Treasury graph from the Spending Review shows that whilst government grant to local government is being cut by 56%, overall levels of Council resources remain pretty flat for the rest of the decade.  By freeing up Councils to raise and spend their own sources of income – from local business rates, council tax increases and other receipts from local economic development – the government expects Councils to transform, in Professor Tony Travers phrase, from being a “mini-welfare state into a local economic growth agency.”  The distributional impact of such a transformation will be significant. The new freedoms passed down from Whitehall to town halls are likely to favour already economically successful areas; further polarisation of wealth seems inevitable, and gaps in civil society will widen.

In these circumstances, and with an opportunity to negotiate with central government to devolve more powers locally, councils in London are looking to collaborate more. This is manifest in the increasing prominence of variously named borough groupings (the Tri-boroughs, the Growth Boroughs; the West London Alliance etc) which are looking to share the costs of service delivery and achieve more for less. In trying to harness economic growth which is also socially inclusive, however, these partnerships need to feature prominently both civil society organisations and socially responsible businesses.  The absence of local government, let alone business representatives from the Change Ahead Conference, suggests there is still some way to go to ensure that inclusive, cross-sectoral discussions happen in the context of further devolution and new governance arrangements in London.

  1. Valuing civil society

One way of ensuring government and business take more interest in the potential of civil society is to be more confident of its size and importance, and expressing this in language they understand.  The sheer diversity of the components which make up a civil society means it tends to defy easy measurement.  A recommendation in the Change Ahead report is that the Greater London Authority which, via GLA Economics has long collected data on the size of London’s economy, now extends its remit to include measures of the capital’s civil society.

In the year in which London has assumed the mantle of European  Volunteering Capital, 2016, a robust assessment of the economic value of volunteering offers as good an indicator as any of the significance of civil society.  The Chief Economist of the Bank of England, Andy Haldane, recently argued that because the societal gains from volunteering are not captured by official GDP statistics, its value tends to go unrecognised.  Seeking to rectify this, he estimates that an army of 1.25m people across the UK create an annual economic value of at least £50bn; proportionately, this is likely to be worth £13bn or more per annum to London.

Using Change Ahead to lobby a new Mayor of London to give due prominence to civil society in the capital, the report’s sponsors could do worse than enlist the support of the Bank of England.  Haldane suggests another reason why the full cost-benefit of volunteering is not appreciated is that many organisations which make up the fabric of civil society do not have the skills (or perhaps the time) to assess its value.  Change Ahead is on to something when it calls for funders, and strategic bodies like the GLA, to do more to help measure the true value of civil society in the capital. By also recognising the rising significance of the sharing economy in London (the third biggest creator of sharing economy start ups in the world), a new Mayor has the opportunity to signal a major shift in how we define and measure what constitutes a successful city.

  1. A plurality of funders

London is not short of funders of civil society – charitable trusts, community foundations, statutory agencies, corporate donors and social investors – many of which recognise the importance of investing in infrastructure that supports and sustains the capital’s social fabric. However, in straitened times and with demand rising, it is increasingly incumbent on this plurality of funders to collaborate in order to ensure they are not funding the same thing, but share information and learning in order to maximise the impact of their investments.

Three priorities seem to stand out for funders of London’s civil society, none of which will be easy to meet.

  1. Funders need to have the means to say no. Julian Corner, CEO of Lankelly Chase, told the Change Ahead conference that we have become too accepting of a culture of needs-based funding. Put bluntly, this is a deficit model in which organisations have a vested interest in growing the problem they are set up to tackle.  Funders and support organisations need to be much more confident in being able to distinguish between authentic needs and those which may be systems driven.
  2. Funders need to acknowledge the increasing blurring between the public, private and voluntary sectors, and how each can contribute to a vibrant civil society. This means their being prepared to fund “bridging architecture,” not to shore up the VCS, but to develop a new paradigm of cross-sectoral collaboration.
  3. Funders (and civil society organisations in general) need to create more time and space to be able to collaborate. As Debbie Sorkin of the Leadership Centre suggested, it is important from time to time to “get off the dance floor and onto the balcony.”

One tool which may enable funders’ collaboration is a shared investment plan or road map.  At a time when we are increasingly being asked to question what the European Union has done for us, we can draw some inspiration here from the way the European Structural and Investment Funds for London are co-invested.  A co-investment plan for funding support of London’s civil society would:

  • Set out some over-arching and shared objectives and priorities.
  • Identify a number of potential co-investors in London’s infrastructure whose investment is targeted at meeting one or more of the shared priorities, including central government departments; Big Lottery and the EU itself in the form of its Technical Assistance programmes.
  • Match these sources with funds from London’s “co-investors” – ie the GLA and London Councils (for pan London and sub-regional programming); individual or small groups of boroughs for more local support; trusts and foundations and potentially corporate givers for (additional) specialist and thematic support and/or pilot projects.

The governance arrangements would need to be worked through, but in London Funders there is the makings of a secretariat which already creates space and time for funders to collaborate, and who now need to take forward and implement the recommendations of Change Ahead.


John Griffiths is Director of Rocket Science and a Trustee of London Funders