Information for MASH Lab participants 18 July 2012 (MASH stands for: Managing Assets and Services Holistically) 1. Background - Community Rights Made Real action research Since the MASH Lab Launch in April a small team from across the council and voluntary sector have been undertaking an Appreciative Inquiry, which is part a whole system approach to looking at transforming service delivery. The attached paper provides more detail on this approach and the rationale behind it. To date we have interviewed a variety of people from teams and organisations across both Dudley MBC and the voluntary and community sector (see Appendix 1). Prior to the MASH launch the Community Rights Made Real project engaged with grassroots community groups to explore the barriers and opportunities which the Community Rights in the Localism Act (then a bill) presented to groups who traditionally don’t take power. A number of ideas and issues were raised through action research which were around the relationship between the council and community groups and active citizens. It was felt by the groups involved that what was needed were ways to manage our assets and services in holistic ways - hence MASH. At the MASH Lab Launch participants looked at 9 different ideas which had arisen been suggested by community groups involved, or responded to issues they raised. Participants told us that all the ideas were connected and were all important so it was difficult to choose a few to go forward with (though they did rank them). The Planning Group then clustered the ideas in to three areas to carry out inquiries around to, in particular to secure perspectives from council officers, who weren’t involved in the Community Rights Made Real work. The three areas have been framed as outcomes for the MASH Lab today, and are around engagement and collaboration leading to: • Creative use of existing assets • Sustainable commissioning decisions and/or service change • Informed and influential individuals (council officers communities and people) Below are the issues and ideas from the Community Rights Made Real work which underpin these areas. a) Sustainable commissioning decisions and/or service change • Voluntary sector organisations felt there was an urgent need to do more and to do some things differently to meet the challenges presented by decentralisation and service diversification.. Local voluntary sector organisations and community and faith groups have relationships with many of the most vulnerable people in the borough, and understand their needs. These groups already provide services and activities to support people, and are looking for opportunities to work closer with Dudley MBC in developing these, as well as undertaking a wider enabling role,
in helping build capacity within the communities to manage the effects of reduced services/ changes to services. • Community groups had issues in relation to contracts and what is measured often being on conflict with what has impact and is valued. Also clarity and guidance isneeded on when EU procurement directives do and don’t apply. E.g. For grants and small-value contracts, EU procurement directives do not apply. From 1 January 2012, the threshold at which service contracts attract EU procurement directives is £173,934.The EU Regulations divide services into so called Part A or "priority" services and Part B or "residual" services. Only Part A services above the threshold are caught by the full procurement directives. John Polychronakis, Chief Executive of Dudley MBC said when he met the community rights group that he is interested in commissions/services being broken down in to smaller chunks to enable local groups to deliver them. b) Informed and influential individuals (council officers communities and people) • Community groups often struggle to find someone in the local authority who is willing to discuss their ideas and/or concerns and who is able to offer relevant information and/or support. • Users feel Dudley MBC’s website is structured in silos, and content varies between Directorates. Top-level information can be difficult to find, users find it difficult to identify officers who can help with things, and they can’t find policies and procedures for some Directorates. • Dudley MBC’s social media use feels patchy to people active in communities, as does face-toface communication. • Groups told us that consultation doesn’t work effectively. It appears to be carried out in relation to the demands of service provider. A more collaborative approach around service change is desired - making user forums something more - a coming together of people to explore things around service issues etc. c) Creative use of existing assets • Dudley MBC officers have skills which local groups can’t readily access and my need only on a one-off or infrequent basis (e.g. networking donated PCs). Proactive matching of Council staff to volunteer hosts is missing, and current take up of employee volunteering is low. If Council officers supported and/or shadowed VCFS organisations through short placements they could far better understand the VCFS and client groups, and opportunities for collaboration, which could help ease budget pressures. • There is a desire for a variety of approaches including different types of leases and lease renewal, meanwhile leases, cross-sector/organisation co-location (to support cross-sector learning etc), building ownership transfers, and the register of assets of community value. It is important to develop a shared understanding of what ‘assets of community value’ means and what the criteria are in order to gain relevant nominations and have an agreed procedure for nominations. • Issues that organisations face in relation to having under-used space or not having space. Benefits include co-design and production opportunities and a real understanding of each other’s operations, leading to mixed use buildings where office and public contact staff are based to reduce the gap between office workers and member of the public. • Practical problems that local groups face in acquiring equipment and furniture and issues that Dudley Council have disposing of furniture and equipment due to office moves and closures etc. It also addresses a concern around equity - the offers shouldn’t be down to who has contacts.
2. The Appreciative Inquiry The inquiry has provided an opportunity for the diverse range of stakeholders involved in the investigation to gain greater awareness and understanding of the frameworks and perspectives which drive and influence different organisations engagement in developing services.
Many of the same barriers and challenges were identified by both council officers and voluntary and community sector officers and volunteers. Both also gave examples of where good collaboration not only enabled them to overcome some of these barriers, but also deliver more effective services. A variety of areas have emerged which demonstrate how a more integrated approach can significantly improve and enhance services for residents and communities across the borough. Participants also identified potential opportunities for developing collaborative approaches, which will be considered during the MASH Lab along with the ideas from the Launch in April. Things we heard during the inquiry: “Working with, not for, the community” “The community wants facilitators, not nannies” A need for transparency and clear communication Respect, honesty, ‘true’ engagement Benefits - seeing ‘the other side’ Building trust “We are probably too focused on what we are doing, rather than what’s going on out there” Efficient and effective use of resources Strength in unity, joining up, pooling resources The council needs to be brave and trust community and voluntary groups more Responsibility, commitment “The voice of people who use services is so quiet it’s deafening”
Appendix 1 People involved in inquiries to date • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
Andrea Pope-Smith (Director of DACHS) Ange Moore (Chief Execs, DMBC) Annette Roberts (Planning Policy) Barry Hutchinson (Marcomms) Caroline Webb (Dudley CVS) Chris Campbell (Ebenezer Baptist Church, Coseley) Dawn Bonnick (Dudley Council Plus) Duncan Lowndes (DUE, DMBC) Eric Mills (African Caribbean Community Network) James Gray (DUE, DMBC) Jason Whyley (Communications, DMBC) Jayne Emery (DCVS) Justin Haywood (DACHS) Kevin Glaze (Swindon Cricket Club) Lorna Reid (DACHS) Marc Carter (INSIGHT) Martin Baines (Chief Execs, DMBC) Martin Shaw (DACHS, DMBC) Matt Smith (Children’s Services, DMBC) Menna Flavell (Corporate Resources, DMBC) Mohammed Farooq (Law and Governance, DMBC) Nicki Burrows (Dudley CVS) Paula Fellows (Netherton TRA) Phil Tart (Director of Corporate Services, DMBC) Sally Huband (Age UK) Sean Beckett (Dudley Council Plus) Shobha Asar Paul (DACHS, DMBC) Simon Manson (Chief Execs, DMBC) Sue Haywood (Community Safety, DMBC) Theresa Riley, Sarah Treneer, Sharon Harthill and Margot Worton (DMBC) Trevor Cambell (St Thomas’s Network) Valerie Little (Director of Public Health) Wendy Fryatt (Black Country Food Bank)
A handful more interviews will take place. If MASH Lab participants who haven’t been interviewed would like to be, please speak to Bridget, Lorna or Donna.