On the Thursday 21 July, Plymouth Octopus Project held a FutureGood event. It brought together many different organisations and stakeholders, from local government to community groups, to discuss what the Future of Doing Good looks like in Plymouth.
For example, you can read Clarity CIC’s round up of the day’s events here.
More collaboration between sectors and organisations of different sizes was a key theme, as was improving communication and involving service users in the decision making process.
Jacky Clift, from the Plymouth Octopus Project, summaries the days events, and lays out her vision for the Future of Doing Good in Plymouth, and how to achieve it.
“This was a vibrant, colourful and energetic discussion around The Future of Doing Good report produced by the Big Lottery Fund by the journalist Sonia Sodha. We spent the day drilling down into what the Future of Doing Good meant for Plymouth, and what we can do now to move towards a great 2025.
What do we expect to be different? Here is the illustrated version of our vision for 2025, strongly featuring collaboration and smiles:
Which led onto the many and various opportunities and challenges now and in the years ahead.
For example, how can we learn to collaborate within the VCSE sector. Competition was seen as inevitable, but the need to find opportunities to collaborate was seen as vital.
In Plymouth we are balancing these two competing forces, competition and collaboration, by setting up a collective VCSE organisation (the newly constituted CIO, currently not very imaginatively named– Plymouth VCSE). This will give Plymouth a central place for the VCSE to work together, and for other sectors to contact and work with it.
Some of the tensions within that collaboration were expressed within the Future of Doing Good Debate, with the inequalities within the sector itself highlighted. There is a perception that the large organisations (not to mention local authorities) can afford fundraisers and paid staff to write bids, and therefore have more access to funding. Finding the time to fundraise and apply for grants is a luxury for smaller organisations.
So how do we persuade larger organisations to support the smaller ones? Plymouth VCSE can offer capacity building support, maybe through bigger organisations supporting the small. But there are big advantages too for larger groups in collaborating with the local, trusted, grassroots deliverers, as shown in our local BBO bid which is through to stage 2 of the process and which is a collaboration of large and small groups. We need to seek out these opportunities for people to work together in the sector to provide the best possible ‘good’, and to learn to trust that this is what we are all trying to do.
Another key part of the vision was that power will have changed hands and people and communities will be taking more responsibility for their own needs and services. ‘Power to the People’ was what the sticky notes said. This was a cross sector agreement, and equally it was agreed that though we all talk the talk, there is a need in Plymouth for real action. We need to change the cultures that are currently making this process slow going.
So how can we do it? There are things happening: Wolseley Trust, a local CEDT, left an offer at the end of the Future of Doing Good event, to share how they run a Healthy Living Centre. Stonehouse Action would like to share their journey as a residents’ association that has converted an old shop into a community centre. Shekinah Mission can pass on how they work in partnership with the corporate sector.
Another action coming out of this conversation and debate is voluntary and community groups offering to run a session for the Integrated Commissioning System Design Groups (!) on what the sector does; how it already feeds into services, and how it could do more if there was a shift of power, resources and some movement around ‘risk’ awareness as a barrier. And this could lead to another two of the notes left on the wall – ‘Universally agreed city priorities led by citizens’ and ‘Social prescribing as way to better meet people’s needs’.
And it was action that people wanted:’action not words’. When all the discussions were boiled down we were left with six key questions.
- How do we create systems that enable?
- How do we give people more power? What matters to them?
- How do we support more enterprising ways of doing good?
- How can we reduce inequality?
- How can we help people develop more skills to take advantage of technology?
- How do we create more community spaces?
Here is a selection of things that we can do in Plymouth:
- We can create a map of the city with its green spaces and its community resources (and we will back this with a full state of the sector report this year, following last years’ really interesting pilot)
- Work with GPs on ‘social prescribing’, and offering asset based community development models and workers to help them, or small scale linking up with their local community groups
- Tell Plymouth City Council what the VCS collectively thinks the Future is before they set their budget and collectively find ways to provide ‘Good’ to the city with budgets shrinking
- Do cross sector work on local hubs.
- Follow the medium/long term plan hatched by the technology group covering Visibility, Skills, Engaging, Understanding Impact, Spaces and Funding.
And one plea from me: underlying all our plans was the need for co-ordination and communication. This conversation happened because Plymouth Octopus Project pulled it together with the Big Lottery; building capacity in small groups, encouraging and facilitating collaborations, sharing local and national information, being the central point for planning with other sectors, checking impact, finding funding – all these rely on a strong infrastructure organisation for the VCS.
Can we have some funding streams for infrastructure from our big funders please?