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The Engaging Partnerships project was conceived in 2002 by the Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) Steering Group with the aim of involving a broad range of groups who could be considered to be hard to reach. The Engaging Partnerships project was developed in the wider context of the embryonic Bolton Community Network and the developing Local Strategic Partnership. The Great Lever Neighbourhood Management Pathfinder (NMP) also had a major role in the development of the project. The Great Lever Neighbourhood Management Pathfinder, along with Bolton Community Network and Bolton Council for Voluntary Service made a commitment to invest resources in a baseline study (phase one). The project is a long term study of the involvement of hard to reach and black and minority ethnic organisations in local partnership activity.

Aim and Context This report represents the second phase of an on-going project being led by Bolton’s Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) Steering Group. One of the project aims is to identify some of the barriers that affect how local groups get involved in partnership working. The phase two report follows initial research undertaken in 2002 into how local organisations can engage more effectively with hard to reach and minority ethnic groups. The report charts developments in services and support to local groups since phase one of the project. Local ownership has been central to the design and delivery of the Engaging Partnerships Project from the outset. Local people were recruited and trained to undertake the original research. A local manager was recruited to co-ordinate activities and many of the subsequent developments have been as a direct result of this local focus. Phase two of the Engaging Partnerships Project includes a review of the original research, an overview of developments to date and a series of recommendations for local agencies that may be considered for future phases of the project.


140 groups were involved in the project. Of these groups 130 (93%) agreed to be added to the Bolton Council for Voluntary Service database. Of the groups involved 47% stated that they provided services specifically for black and minority ethnic communities. Almost half of the groups involved in the study identified themselves as black and minority ethnic groups. 39% of the groups involved had no formal legal status and no constitution. These groups were either unaware of issues relating to legal status or were in the early stages of development.

Summary of Phase One Report The phase one study was delivered by a team of locally recruited and trained researchers who identified key hard to reach groups using existing database information held by Steering Group partners and identified further groups using a ‘snowball’ sampling approach. Snowball sampling is a simple, yet very effective technique: one participant from a group identifies another participant or group who, in turn, identifies a third, and so forth. Snowball sampling was agreed by the steering group to

In addition researchers attempted to gain access to groups of disabled people, women’s groups, lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) groups, travellers groups and asylum seekers and refugee groups. Researchers reported some success in reaching most of these groups apart from groups representing the LGBT community. A small number of groups refused to engage with the project and presented as ‘cautious’ and ‘suspicious’ about the motives of the project and the researchers. 51% of the groups involved in the project experienced serious financial difficulty that inhibited them from meeting their group aims. 33% of the groups involved had no income and a further 21% had only short-term, project specific funding of less than £1,000. The groups who were in receipt of funding had accessed it in grant form through a range of sources; Grants administered by Bolton Council for Voluntary Service (33%); Grants from Bolton Metro (32%); Private donations (21%); National Lottery Good Causes (11%); Charitable Trusts and Foundations (3%). 32% of the groups involved stated lack of knowledge about funding as a key issue with support, information and internal resources (time, staff) also playing a part.

be an essential strategy in accessing local hard to reach groups.


Groups reported that internal capacity issues and funding

Key Recommendations From Phase One

had a major impact on their ability to become involved with partnership activities. 75% of groups required support with funding; 48% with publicity; 41% with computer skills and 41% with language issues. Issues affecting groups ability to access current services and support included language issues, lack of awareness of available services and perceptions of how services are

Groups can only participate effectively in partnership

delivered. In particular some religious and cultural

working when they are operating effectively themselves

organisations were concerned that involvement from

– a small hard to reach group should not be expected to

external agencies would have a negative impact on their

finance their own partnership involvement, for example a

internal value system.

group with a part time worker doing 4 hours admin per week, should not have to find additional resources to

Fig. 1

send their staff to partnership meetings. Individually tailored support packages should be put in place to

Barriers to Involvement

develop the capacity of each group to become involved in wider partnership work. Resources should be targeted to support such developments. Information about services should be made accessible using a variety


of approaches. Practical issues relating to partnership working should be 0







% of Groups Lack of Time/Staff






discussed between local organisations and agencies and a ‘good practice’ guide could be developed to cover issues such as funding, training and support for groups. Lack of awareness about basic services indicates that a more direct approach may be required to distribute information relating to support activities. Outreach

25% of the groups were involved with some form of partnership activity with another organisation. 30% of groups had heard of the Local Strategic Partnership and 51% had heard of the Bolton Community Network. Researchers reported a high level of cynicism from groups relating to partnerships and

services offered on a one-to-one basis may be more effective than paper methods. Whilst 51% of groups had heard of the Bolton Community Network when questioned by researchers, 77% wanted to become involved, an increase of 26% as a result of the information given by researchers.

networks as well as a lack of general understanding of the relevance of such networks and partnerships. On contact with researchers 77% of the groups expressed the desire to become involved with Bolton Community Network.


A number of groups stated that the language used in meetings is often aimed at professionals and can be excluding. Organisations and agencies taking a lead on partnership activity should aim to minimise jargon and extend the use of plain English. Use simple language wherever possible and where jargon is unavoidable, provide a ‘jargon buster’ to explain key terms. This will help to ensure accessibility. Training sessions on jargon busting at an introductory level may also be useful for groups and professionals alike. Where there are likely to be ongoing issues relating to representation at partnership level, it may be worth considering specialised projects to bring such organisations together and support more effective involvement. A good local example of this is the Health and Care Together Project. This project offers support to local groups that have a health or care focus and helps these groups to be involved in a meaningful way with a wide range of existing partnerships across the Health and Care sectors in the Borough.

There should be greater utilisation of existing resource centres. Issues relating to use of existing resources include lack of awareness of the relevance of such centres and lack of confidence of group members. Groups may need to be informed directly of the availability of resources and in some cases will need initial support to access such services. Groups reported that a personal approach by a specific contact person was significant in building a rapport and confidence in the services offered. Some groups are not involved in partnership working because they do not feel it is relevant to them. Local organisations and agencies should devise means to communicate the relevance of partnership activity and be clear how this is of relevance to the groups. Clear information packs and open and friendly, one-to-one discussions will encourage a greater understanding. Partnerships need to value the involvement of local groups and this could be reflected in practical support for example through the provision of expenses, childcare and organisational costs incurred.


Engaging Partnerships Phase Two At this stage of the project the aim is to assess key developments in services and support to local groups and to assess the impact of these developments on the groups from the original study. At this interim stage it is not possible to assess the full impact of the project, nonetheless, a number of positive achievements have been recorded over the past eighteen months including: • A partnership project between the Great Lever Neighbourhood Management Pathfinder, Bolton Council for Voluntary Service and Bolton Community College; the ‘Great Lever Community Involvement Project’ is twelve months old. The community involvement project is delivered by a team of locally recruited and trained community involvement officers who work throughout the pathfinder area to encourage local involvement in community and partnership activities. • Also building on the success of the one-to-one approach as recommended in phase one of the Engaging Partnerships Project is the Bolton Community Network Ambassadors Project. Again working with locally recruited and trained people, this project is leading on work linked to capacity building activities with many of the groups involved in phase one. • Almost one hundred groups from the original study have accessed a one-to-one needs analysis with Community Network Ambassadors. Each group is now involved in designing their own package of tailored training and support. Almost 70 of these groups have become involved with forums attached to the Bolton Community Network and have accessed training and support from CVS and other local agencies.

• Bolton Council for Voluntary Service (CVS) have targeted new, small and harder to reach groups with information about support services available and funding administered by the organisation. A roadshow of CVS projects and services has been rolled out across the Borough and has been successful in attracting a wide range of new groups. Workshops offered at the roadshows, as well as a wide range of workshops offered more widely have led to an increase in the number of groups applying for grants through CVS. In round three of the Community Chest Grants only 11% of applications from BME groups were successful. With targeted information and support this has risen to 50% in the last round (round eight). • A new project focussing on faith organisations has been developed over the last twelve months. The Interfaith project aims to bring together local groups from a broad range of faith backgrounds and enable effective partnership involvement at a range of levels from local community forums to the Bolton Local Strategic Partnership. The project has worked with a number of other agencies including the Bolton Racial Harmony Forum, Bolton Hindu Forum and Bolton Council of Mosques. • One of the local researchers from phase one of the Engaging Partnerships Project has gone on to a post working within traveller communities. Working with the Traveller Education Service this worker has begun to act on some of the issues raised during the project including the development of a women’s travellers group.


• The Green House Project is based at a council owned property in the Deane area of Bolton. ERDF funding has enabled the project to carry out a very successful weekend of workshops, which attracted a diverse representation of the local communities. Bolton at Home funding has allowed the Green House to organise healthy eating and English language teaching which has been carried out a local refugee/asylum seeker 'drop in' by volunteers from The Greenhouse. CVS administered grants have allowed the support of a youth group, purchase of a copy printer and other office supplies. A new lottery funded development worker who is to be based at The Greenhouse will be targeting BME communities. The worker will look at creating an environmental education network, capacity building sessions and combining English teaching with practical English teaching activities. The worker will also facilitate an annual multi-cultural festival to be held locally, in conjunction with local volunteers. • Through the Transforming Youth Work Plan, Bolton Youth Service has developed a post to address and develop black and minority ethnic participation within the Youth Service. Achievements include: • A community event held to raise the profile of the Youth Service within ethnic minority communities. • Partnership with Bolton Ethnic Minority Business Service to develop the capacity of local groups to access mainstream youth provision. • Targeted youth work activity within specific areas of the Borough to reach minority ethnic communities.

Further Recommendations – Phase Three Priorities

The BME Steering Group agreed that the recommendations from phase one are retained and that progress will be evaluated on an ongoing basis (as in fig 3 below).

Revisit original reccomendations

Monitor and review the improvements

Collect information to establish where you are

Develop and introduce improvements

Identify strengths and areas for improvement

Prioritise the areas that need improving

Based on the European Framework for Quality Management (EFQM)


Groups that have participated in the project have indicated that one to one contact with Bolton Community Network Ambassadors has been most helpful in allowing them to participate with the project. It is recommended that this approach be continued as the first point of contact for hard to reach groups. Local agencies should consider using the Community Network Ambassadors for similar projects as the existing expertise and contacts will prove beneficial. From phase one it could be seen that there are specific issues facing many groups from within Black and Minority Ethnic Communities (language issues, concerns over cultural ‘diluting’, childcare, resources). The BME Steering Group support the recommendation that a specific post be developed to work with these groups. Part of the remit of this post would be to develop a BME forum as part of the Bolton Community Network. This forum will enable wider involvement of smaller and newer groups from BME communities. A Black and Minority Ethnic Groups development post will also allow

Throughout the Engaging Partnerships Project certain

services to be targeted at more hidden groups.

hard to reach groups have been under represented (e.g. disability groups and LGBT groups). Further in depth work will be needed to enable these groups to become involved with partnership activities. In some cases the groups may be so informal that they do not even recognise themselves as a group. In such cases intensive one to one development support will be important in raising the capacity of the groups to engage effectively and bring their valuable contributions to local partnership working. The Engaging Partnerships Project was begun in 2002 with the aim of involving a broad range of groups who could be considered hard to reach. It has become evident throughout the project that in many instances it is not the groups that are hard to reach but more often a failure on the part of local organisations to meet them. Local partnerships need to carefully examine their own internal structures and cultures and make changes that will support increased involvement from a wide range of groups.


Acknowledgments Thanks to the groups and individuals who have taken the time to become involved in the Engaging Partnerships Project.

Thanks to all the partners on the BME Steering group for time, energy and expertise contributed to the project. Thanks to the funders;

• The Neighbourhood Renewal Unit

• Great Lever Neighbourhood Management Pathfinder

• Bolton Community Network

• Bolton Council for Voluntary Service.

Engaging Partnerships  

Phase 1 of Engaging Partnerships