The Way Ahead is an cross-sector initiative to rethink what support is needed for London's voluntary and community sector (VCS). A report entitled, The Way Ahead - Civil Society at the Heart of London, was commissioned by City Bridge Trust, undertaken by London Funders and published in April 2016 – it focussed on some key themes:
Changing role of the state, voluntary and community sector (VCS) and funders of VCS
The need to support communities to co-produce shared solution drawing on the strengths of the community (geographical or otherwise)
The need to bring strategic leadership and the role of pan-London resourcing (with the potential to bring together sources of funding in a London pool to fund the provision of support to the VCS)
- That the VCS should be supported to create consistent quality services and manage the risks associated with their increased role in delivering outcomes.
A role was outlined for London Councils to:
Support the involvement of the VCS in decision making
- Ensure the consistent commission / funding of local support working alongside the Greater London Authority, London Funders and the London Hub
In the light of the recommendations, City Bridge Trust sought the involvement of London Councils, on behalf of the boroughs, to work in strategic partnership and bring democratic legitimacy to the implementation of the report’s findings.
A sub-committee of the Grants Committee and a sub group of borough grants officers were formed to provide intelligence and scrutiny to the workplan and to the partnership with City Bridge Trust. This provide democratic legitimacy to the work and ensure any proposals reflect local needs and added value to existing local community based services.
Initial work included a survey of London boroughs in mid-2017 to find out what (and how) civil society infrastructure (e.g. Centres for Voluntary Service and volunteer centres) were being supported by the boroughs. You can see a selection of the results below:
We have shared our findings with the Boroughs, Members and the wider third sector, including City Bridge Trust who have used it to inform their ongoing preparatory work on the Cornerstone Fund
Throughout 2017-18, London Councils has worked with the key stakeholders to ensure that the boroughs' voice has been heard in any proposed implementation of change, and to also highlight work that is being done in boroughs co-designing services with local communities and organisations. Boroughs are represented on the Systems Change Group, the Hub Advisory Group and the Cornerstone Reference Group which are key parts of the Way Ahead.
The Way Ahead - additional information
The Way Ahead is a cross sector initiative by civil society, public sector bodies and funders improve the coordination and links between the constituent parts of London's civil society i.e. VCS, boroughs, London regional government, business, and independent funders for the benefit of Londoners. The aim of The Way Ahead is to have a thriving civil society in London, which is resilient, collaborative and sustainable which will lead to improved outcomes for all Londoners. To achieve this, The Way Ahead believes civil society organisations need access to appropriate support - helping them to develop, share learning , to collaborate; and to speak up on behalf of those they serve.
Systems Change Group: This group's role is to have an overview of The Way Ahead process and all the places where discussions and work are happening (e.g. the Cornerstone Fund, the London Hub, CVS Directors, Equalities Reference Group, and London Councils' Leadership in the Third Sector (LTS) Sub-Committee etc.) The Systems Change Group is made up of representatives from local voluntary and community groups, local and specialist infrastructure and equalities groups, independent funders, health and business sectors. There is now elected member and borough officer representation on this group.
The London Hub: The Hub Advisory Group is supporting the development of the new Hub for civil society; the group has representation from various key stakeholders including local and regional civil society infrastructure organisations, social action networks, equalities networks and independent funders. Local government is represented by both an elected member and a borough officer, who in turn will feedback to their networks. The Advisory Group is currently working on implementing governance arrangements, a workplan, communications strategy and branding. As of March 2018, it is undergoing recruitment for a CEO and a small staff team will follow shortly afterwards with a view to be fully operational by mid-2018.
The Hub will complement local, regional and specialist infrastructure support, not duplicate local borough provision and is keen to work with boroughs to coordinate work, provide intelligence and help to highlight civil society issues.
The Hub has highlighted three key areas of work:
Data and Intelligence - Working with all parts of civil society to facilitate the collation and sharing of data, intelligence and learning. Creating a data overview of civil society data for London, using data to inform and influence policy, helping to improve data literacy across organisations. Sharing success stories and showcasing good practice, evidencing impact. Facilitating the bringing together of datastores across London.
Networking: Developing local, borough and London wide systems of support and peer support mechanisms and building communities of practise to help fellow community organisations going through transition or other difficulties, making fuller use of resources such as "Funder Plus" offers.
- Voice and Influence: Providing a platform for the collective voice of the sector; coalescing around issues affecting Londoners, advocating for investment.
The Hub will not be a direct replacement for LVSC, which closed in October 2017, as it will not provide direct services such as training. The Hub will not compete with local civil society support organisations to provide direct services.
The Cornerstone Fund: City Bridge Trust (CBT) has approved £3 million over two years, for the Cornerstone Fund which is intended to support a transformational agenda working towards improved support and skills for civil society in London. London Councils is represented on the Cornerstone Fund reference group that is working with CBT and others such as London Funders, Greater London Volunteers, Partnership for Young London, GLA and Heart of the City to shape its governance and parameters. Work is continuing on the establishment of the Fund; it is anticipated that it will be making awards by mid-2018.
One of the Way Ahead's aims is to promote the sharing of data and information. London Councils has published its grant programme awards for 2013-17 and 2017-21 in open data format on the Grant Nav database; this is a standardised way of publishing grants data facilitated by 360Giving. Publishing grants awards in open data format joins up data and enables funders to improve grant making practice, strategic planning which in turn provides greater opportunities for efficiencies and reductions in duplication. Barnet and Southwark councils have also published their data on Grant Nav and London Councils continues to encourage other boroughs to publish their funding data in this format.