Voscur Impact Report 2019-20

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Never More Needed Working together for Communities

Impact Report 2019-20


Welcome to our annual report for the year 2019-20, featuring highlights of our work and impact over a year that brought new challenges and opportunities for Voscur and the voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector in Bristol. Now in our 24th year as Bristol’s VCSE support and development agency, we remain passionate and committed to serving the sector by delivering on our charitable objectives. Our ultimate goal is to make a real difference to the lives of the people and communities we all serve; this review highlights some of the new ways we’re working with you to achieve this. Last year, we stated that demonstrating and speaking about the difference we make as an organisation and a sector is more important now than ever before.


Little did we know how these words would echo as we collectively supported and assisted organisations, people and communities in the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The analysis suggests that pre-pandemic, organisations were generally positive about overall change in the VCSE sector, especially in their ability to deliver services and plan ahead. It also told us that our work continues to be highly valued, has lasting impact and is boosting knowledge and skills, especially in smaller groups. As members explained: “Voscur has been really helpful in costing services and packages…Voscur was the best [relative to other services]. I built a relationship with them, and they believe in and see what I’m doing. It was really easy to access support.”

Evaluating change and our role in it

“We used Voscur consultancy on business planning. This led to us investing in a new worker and a new board member… It’s helped strengthen our capacity, and we hope in the long-term it’s made us more sustainable.”

Towards the end of 2019, we commissioned more independent research into factors of change for the VCSE sector and the impact of our services.

As we reflect on the year 2019-20, it is clear a necessary shift in the sector was beginning to take shape. This is outlined in the VCSE Strategy.


We look forward to working in even closer collaboration with our members and partners in 2020-21. To read the VCSE Strategy, see: voscur.org/partnership/strategy-and-relationships.

Delivering impact in challenging times During the initial lockdown, our national body, NAVCA, launched the #NeverMoreNeeded social media campaign to highlight the work of a huge variety of organisations who helped with the emergency response. We worked quickly to support groups: moving all our services online and temporarily suspending charges, increasing telephone and virtual support and advice, working with local and central government to adapt funding, and creating mechanisms for groups to collaborate with individuals and organisations not used to working with the sector. At the time of writing, we are still involved in pandemic recovery, working with members, partners and stakeholders to reimagine the sector’s future in this changed world.

We also know that, without continued investment in the sector from partners including Bristol City Council, The Big Lottery, Power to Change, Access Foundation, Big Society Capital, Quartet Community Foundation and NHS England, our collective response to COVID-19 would not have been as effective. 2019-20 started with energy and optimism, and ended rather differently. We could not be more proud of the outstanding and remarkable effort shown by community groups, charities, social enterprises, volunteers from ‘Can Do Bristol’, and Mutual Aid groups during lockdown and beyond. Finally, we also want to acknowledge the outstanding dedication and hard work of Voscur staff and the Board of Trustees, who remain dedicated to delivering the highest quality services so that our sector builds back better and stronger. Thank you!

Sandra Meadows Chief Executive Officer

Lin Whitfield Chair 3


Sector Leaders Sector Leaders is a network of proactive individuals working in Bristol’s VCSE sector who have come together to share intelligence, expertise and opportunities, as well as shape policy and strategy, for example, in youth and play organisations (see below). The group is facilitated and supported by Voscur, but is ultimately self-governing, and is part of our aim to encourage distributed leadership from the grassroots upwards. During the last 12 months, the Sector Leaders Network rapidly grew to nearly forty members. Now, with a recession on the way and the COVID-19 pandemic set to continue, sector leadership has never been more important. The network is now building a picture of the post-lockdown challenges facing the sector, and how to support organisations in reopening in a way that keeps staff and stakeholders safe, while also delivering vital services. For more information, see: voscur.org/partnership/sectorleaders

Case study: New strategies for youth & play Playful Bristol (playfulbristol.org) was set up by play organisations in the city, following cuts to youth services provision for children aged 8-11.

Voice and influence

The new consortium has consulted on a strategy for play which will deliver free play sessions and activities in the most deprived parts of Bristol. It will also support organisations that involve play, such as schools. Several Sector Leaders have been instrumental in setting up Playful Bristol. Voscur supported the consortium by identifying gaps in provision and connecting it with other local groups. Playful Bristol has been so successful that its organisers are now looking to replicate the model for a consortium supporting older children’s youth work.

Playful Bristol has been so successful that its organisers are now looking to repeat the model for a consortium supporting older children’s youth work

For some time now, local organisations have said that traditional influence and advocacy work has been getting harder. Our latest annual study using the Qualitative Impact Protocol (QuIP) methodology in 2019 confirmed this, identifying changes in government structures as a major issue. 40% of organisations said it was getting harder to have a positive influence on policy and decisionmakers, and many organisations were frustrated and sceptical about using our knowledge to shape relevant plans. Locally, designing and producing services with other organisations is becoming the norm, with local government and NHS bodies more open to community-led services and system change. However, with a concentration of power and policy-making in national government, plus funding reductions, local bodies have less room to manoeuvre. As nfpSynergy put it, some charities have been left “politically powerless.”1 Despite this, there are some positive signs. Black South West Network, Locality and Voscur were asked by Bristol City Council to produce a COVID-19 recovery strategy for the city’s VCSE sector, to identify future investment priorities, based on the needs and ambitions of local organisations.

The political and the business case for a stronger social economy is becoming more appealing, and collaborations such as Bristol’s Local Access programme will help to increase the sector’s financial independence and the balance of power. Our Sector Leaders Network continues to grow (see page 4), linking a wider range of community leaders to policymaking. By reaching out to support activists across the city, especially those working for communities facing significant barriers to inclusion, the Network is also helping a new generation of representatives to be heard. Finally, the Kruger report ('Levelling Up Our Communities', June 2020) also suggests delayed recognition of the VCSE sector’s impact during coronavirus, and possibly a shift in relations. It remains to be seen whether or not the report's recommendations would address our sector's ‘political powerlessness’, but these Bristol initiatives should at least add more evidence to the call for a fairer ‘social contract.’

The diagram below, extracted from our QuIP 2019-20 study, shows links between causes of change and outcomes. The weight of connecting lines shows the strength of connection (number of respondents). Social media presence

Targeted relationship building

Support from other groups/ council

Voice and influence

Will the COVID-19 crisis help to get our voice heard?

Increased visibility

More collaboration with local groups Increased awareness of issues


of organisations said it was getting harder to have a positive influence on policy and decision-makers

Influence policy / strategy

1  https://nfpsynergy.net/blog/eight-flaws-coronavirus-crisis-reveals-about-charity-sector



Project 2020 As a way to gain and maintain financial independence, charities and social enterprises are working to move away from grant dependence to a broader model which includes trading. To support the set-up and growth of surplus-generating activities, and to boost social impact, many sector organisations are considering social finance: that means finance with a social purpose. Thanks to funding from Access Foundation and the Barrow Cadbury Trust, Voscur has been able to set up and run Project 2020: a learning network bringing together a range of organisations looking to explore or expand trading opportunities and be ready for investment. • So far, the network has looked at topics like business planning, measuring impact, and developing traded income. We also ran tailored courses on change management and Theory of Change. After consulting network members, we’re now moving to a more focused phase with high-level support for investment and sustainability. • Our experience with Project 2020 has helped develop Voscur’s capacity to provide skilled and informed support, backing the Bristol VCSE sector to become more financially independent with the skills and confidence to attract and manage new income streams. What's more, when we started in 2018, funding options were fairly black and white: grant or loan. Since then, routes to social finance have expanded to address what organisations need to grow and increase their impact. These include: • Grant blend. • Bounce back loans.

Financial independence

• (Quasi-) Equity investments. • Incentivised trading grants. • Repayable grants. With more ways to reach financial independence now open to charities and social enterprises, choosing the options may be more complex, but the chances of finding a good fit with your long-term plans are much higher.

The routes to social finance have expanded to become more flexible and accessible

Challenging inequalities with skills and investment In January, the Access Foundation and Big Society Capital committed £3m to strengthen Bristol’s social economy in response to a bid from Voscur, Black South West Network, Bristol & Bath Regional Capital and the School for Social Entrepreneurs.

With a potential duration of up to ten years, we are also targeting local stakeholders through the One City Approach to help with co-investment.

Financial independence

Building a fair and inclusive social economy

The One City Approach is driving collaboration across sectors towards Bristol’s shared priorities, supported by a new political and business commitment. The social economy is a crucial means to those ends but is currently underrepresented in delivering the One City Plan.

COVID-19 then hit trading income hard, and social enterprise was questioned as a route to financial independence. Fortunately, local enterprises quickly adapted to new ways of working and earning and, after finding our own way through lockdown, the Local Access Programme (LAP) is progressing rapidly. We recruited several enterprises to the LAP steering group, so grassroots expertise and experience plays a large part in decision-making.

Our Local Access Partnership offers the means to connect Bristol City Funds – a place-based investment mechanism – to those communities that resources and investment don’t normally reach, thereby making the social economy more equitable and inclusive.

Four pilot projects have been planned in detail for the LAP's first phase of testing and learning, focused on inclusion and equality, and tying delivery to the partnership’s principles and aims.

If your organisation is interested in joining the LAP as an enterprise, an advisor or a stakeholder, please contact david@voscur.org

Building on the One City Approach for cross-sector collaboration

Lo qu of t n

City leaders’ shared priorities Co m m e

rcial b



e ss

Wider economy

rem ent C i ty le a d e rs

P u b l i c s e rv




A p pr o ac h

Social economy

i c es



Charity rise terp n e l Socia






Unused social investment


More inclusive & equal

E nt

Marginalised communities


finance ed


Blended finance

Blen d


City Funds

is e


Social investment



P o licy

Pla ce -b a s e d

Cross-sector collaboration

P ro c u



ip Unused social entrepreneursh

People and assets available to use 7


COVID-19 response In March 2020, the UK went into lockdown. Overnight, people lost the social connections and services that support them day-to-day. This forced isolation meant that VCSE services were #NeverMoreNeeded. However, this work became harder to deliver due to the restrictions imposed nationally, to keep us all safe: schools closed, vulnerable people shielded, and we only left the house for essentials, exercise or key worker shifts. Yet the sector adapted its services and remained at the forefront of the coronavirus response, as these examples demonstrate:

Feeding Bristol The social and economic impact of the pandemic meant that the number of foodbank referrals in Bristol tripled during just one two-week period during April. Many businesses and organisations that were unable to serve customers repurposed their kitchens and donated meals instead.

Increased mental health support Bristol Mind found unique ways to expand its service, even under lockdown restrictions. While its face-toface work has been suspended, Mind expanded its MindLine ‘listening space’ to run seven nights a week 7pm–11pm and its other phone lines and online support services remained active.

Age UK Coronavirus Support Hub The Coronavirus Support Hub was set up to provide practical and emotional support and virtual activities. The hub is led by Age UK in partnership with 27 other older peoples’ organisations in the city to offer support with shopping, collections, home maintenance and coronavirus guidance.

Resilience and adaptability

Community and mutual aid groups Bristol’s grassroots response was very diverse, and mostly well-targeted and effective. From one mutual aid Facebook group, other groups sprang up by postcode and around community hubs. Voscur focused on making the response safe and coordinated. Mutual Aid groups were often temporary, but where groups want to continue and grow into something more permanent, Voscur has offered support, and will continue to support and coordinate demand with resources.

Case study: Houria Houria, which means ‘freedom’, is a pan-African catering social enterprise that specifically supports, trains and employs migrant women and survivors of slavery. It was founded in 2019 by Kim Prado. Houria creates dishes based on traditional community food, and organises food events. The women feel seen as their culture and cuisine is appreciated, challenging the stereotypes migrant women are often subjected to; Houria also supports women to navigate the systems and processes to secure employment. Through COVID-19, Houria adapted its service to provide home deliveries and socially-distanced events. Before registering as a Community Interest Company (CIC), Voscur supported Houria to select an appropriate structure, and mentored its Directors. We also provided funding information and advice, resources, and signposting to other useful services. Houria’s goals for the future include developing a new training programme for migrant women and women who have escaped slavery, and extending the home delivery service. For more information, see: houria.co.uk

Resilience and adaptability

Training, learning and support 7% Collaboration

5% Startup support 8% Make connection and signpost 5% Digital resources and tools


sessions in total

3% Specialist support (including crisis, change, and funding strategy)

38% Funding advice and support

35% Capacitybuilding advice

Support sessions delivered in 2019/20


located in priority wards (North, South & East Central)

> £500,000 £10,000– £100,000



equalities–led or serving equalities communities

< £10,000

9% 33% 29%


organisations 29%


of organisations said support had a significant impact

total participants


of income brought into the city


Training and learning events



Funding and income




Startup and change



Organisational capacity

Types of training and learning provided


Intelligence, information and policy

of participants reported an increase in their capacity



21% Influence



Collaboration case study: Bristol Refugee & Asylum Seeker Partnership (BRASP) Organisations serving refugees, asylum seekers and migrants have always worked together to an extent. Some have joint funding, some share premises, but collectively they have struggled to meet ever-increasing demand, due to austerity and scarce funding opportunities. Lacking a singular voice, some duplication and gaps had emerged, so in the summer of 2019, Bristol Refugee Rights (BRR) approached Voscur for support with improving collaboration. This led to the creation of a steering group (BRR, Bristol Hospitality Network, Red Cross, Borderlands and ACH) and Voscur interviewing 15 allied organisations to establish challenges and opportunities. COVID-19 actually helped to develop closer working as a necessary response to the pandemic. Together, BRASP: • Planned lockdown services, each taking a focus such as food or advice, to ensure needs were met. • Spoke regularly to make sure nothing was missed, to update on the emerging needs, and to better coordinate services. • Shared resources – distributing phone credit and devices to the Partnership’s service users as a result of a crowdfunding campaign. • Distributed surveys, funding opportunities and news through regular emails. • Shared essential data about service users, ensuring that one person doesn’t get welfare calls from multiple organisations whilst another person receives none. • Developed a joint leaflet on service provision, which was translated into several languages thanks to a joint funding application. • Jointly addressed strategic issues, such as working with Bristol City Council to support move-on accommodation. • Held two Partnership meetings over Zoom and developed a collective vision, values and aims.


The Partnership is now drafting an action plan and a case for support to underpin further joint working. Beth Wilson, BRR’s CEO explains: “The Partnership has collectively responded to Covid; each organisation has had a focus, meaning that we haven't spread ourselves too thinly. By working together, we have been able to reach more people and meet more needs. Trust has been built between organisations, and we feel more confident in relying on each other. This partly came from our building understanding about each other’s organisations and values, but also partly from necessity. "Voscur’s role as an independent facilitator has also been essential to this – they have challenged us, supported us and ensured that we have kept on track with our strategic goals so that we could focus on meeting service users' needs.”


Case study: System leadership System change takes time, especially when the system – in this case, the NHS – has a pandemic to deal with on top of everything else. Thankfully our partners in this project, Voluntary Action North Somerset (VANS) and The Care Forum, are also working for longterm change rather than temporary solutions. Since 2018 we’ve been building trust with Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (BNSSG STP) and identifying local priorities where VCSE groups can combine their expertise and strong community relations with primary and social care. The aim is to increase wellbeing and reduce the demand for treatment by preventing ill health both directly and via its wider social causes, such as inequalities of employment, education and housing. COVID-19 led to a rapid change of gear: instead of gradually shifting provision from hospitals to communities, we needed to pilot preventative support at home almost overnight. Part of our COVID-19 response was to work with the Sirona care and health and the region’s emergency response systems. We put together a network of VCSE specialist organisations providing community support to those most likely at risk: • Equalities communities. • Older people. • People with long-term health conditions. This focus was to avoid hospital admission and support people when discharged from hospital, therefore creating capacity to meet local challenges. With one more year to build on these achievements, the current pilot has leapfrogged over several original milestones ahead of schedule. The quick integration of VCSE organisations into health and social care pathways gives us all an opportunity for longer-term, more effective partnerships. We are now much better placed to prove the value of support based on wider factors of health, and support more proactive wellbeing interventions designed together with diverse communities that previously found services hard to access.



Mapping the sector We’ve recently redeveloped our online VCSE sector directory with a new interface and some new features. The directory is publicly accessible on the Voscur website: voscur.org/vcse-directory The aim of the directory is to provide a thorough and accurate list of VCSE organisations operating in the Bristol area. Listings are searchable, and can be filtered according to the type of service you’re looking for and the geographical area. For each organisation listed, we provide: • A brief summary of what the organisation does. • Links to its website and social media. • Where applicable, links to the organisation's Charity Commission listing and Companies House data (publicly available). Recognising the challenges of maintaining a comprehensive directory ourselves, we prioritised linking to open public data where available. Behind the scenes, we have created some tools that help Voscur admin staff check and update existing data, continuously improving its quality. Organisations can check their own entry, or add one if they don’t find themselves; there is also a web form to request changes or corrections. Detailed analysis and manipulation currently requires additional work offline, but in future we'd like to offer more web tools for local organisations to use sector date themselves to inform and improve their services. Please try the directory yourself, and email any feedback to Tom Rosenbloom, Systems Administrator (tom@voscur.org).

Data and information

Bookmark the VCSE directory today:


627 25

organisations currently listed categories to help you find organisations by specialism

Feeding sector data into policy Building on the city’s 'Into A New Era' VCSE strategy that showed our use of data needed to change, this year we’ve shared intelligence from the sector in several policy and strategy initiatives: • Everyday Integration is gathering data from groups on the ground to shape an integration strategy for the city. Voscur has helped design the programme’s engagement approach to make sure the research includes the whole spectrum of people living in the city. • Having set out initial priorities, Bristol City Funds is now using tools developed by Thriving Places (centreforthrivingplaces.org, formerly Happy City) to measure the impact of its investments and find out where to prioritise future market development. As the datasets and tools grow, Bristol’s Local Access Programme (see page 7) is exploring the possibility of a similar approach. This will reinforce an understanding of the city’s VCSE economy, starting from our most disadvantaged communities.

• As a citywide development agency, Voscur has used internal data on members and service users, and open public data, to develop baselines for both Bristol’s Local Access Partnership and the development of a VCSE Recovery strategy (with BSWN and Locality).

Data and information

A more switched-on sector

• By capturing the factors of change for organisations, rather than the effect of interventions, our QuIP research (see page 5) produces useful intelligence for Voscur, but also for commissioners and public decisionmakers. This tells us about positive and negative change for the VCSE sector. For example, many organisations had boosted their income, but funder demands were becoming more difficult; many had also expanded service delivery, but pressures on staff to meet demand had still increased; and medium-sized organisations (£100-£500k turnover) were struggling more than larger and smaller groups. As Voscur’s own data and information services increase, we aim to use more VCSE sector data and evidence so we can push for community-led policy and strategy.



Thank You Our members

Our 2019/20 staff team

We are enormously grateful for the continued support of our members: individuals, charities, community groups and social enterprises of varying sizes and types, whose contribution to our work and to supporting citizens and communities across the city has been outstanding, particularly this year.

Huge thanks to our exceptional staff team for their ongoing commitment and dedication to Voscur and the sector, particularly for outstanding work during the COVID-19 emergency response:

Our 2019/20 Board members Where would we be without our dedicated Board of Trustees? The gift of time, knowledge and expertise is so critical for VCSE sector organisations, and the Voscur Board of Trustees worked incredibly hard during the year to ensure our stability and continued development:

Thank You

Lin Whitfield (Chair) Steve Sayers, Windmill Hill City Farm (Vice Chair) (Resigned January 2020) Kamaljit Poonia, Ujima Radio (Vice Chair) Matthew Wortley, Individual Member (Treasurer) Dan Lyus, WE Care and Repair (Resigned July 2019) Alex Kittow, Southmead Development Trust (Resigned April 2019) Suzanne Thompson, The Restore Trust (Resigned November 2019) Joanna Holmes, Barton Hill Settlement Sian Jones, Individual Member Di Robinson, Individual Member Sam Thomson, The Ardagh Ellie Collier, Arnos Vale Cemetery Trust (Elected January 2020)

Polly Allen Clare Daley Lucie Dinsmore Imogen Downes Lucy Fletcher Richard Foote Maria Franchi Fiona Gillard Katharine Gonzales Ellie Hooper Mark Hubbard Sui Lau Jennifer McLamb, Sandra Meadows Esther Passingham Ria Powell Tom Rosenbloom Rosa Watkin Phoebe Westwood David Whittaker Jenny Wildblood

Our 2019/20 volunteers Jessie Greenwood Katie Johnston Sue Williams

Thank You

Thank You Our partners

Our Sector Leaders

Much of our work is delivered through collaboration, and we are grateful to the following for their trust, partnership and contribution to our work:

Thanks to those of you who have supported us during 2019–20, including:

3rd Sector Group (BANES) Black South West Network Bristol & Bath Regional Capital Bristol City Council Bristol City Funds Bristol Community Health One City Office Feeding Bristol Healthier Together Locality Mayor’s Office Quartet Community Foundation South Gloucestershire CVS SSE Dartington - School for Social Entrepreneurs The Care Forum The Mayoral Commission for Women The Mayoral Commission on Race Equality (CoRE) Voluntary Action North Somerset (VANS) Wesport West of England Rural Network

Our funders and donors Thanks also to all our funders and donors for their ongoing trust and support: Barrow Cadbury Connect Fund Bristol City Council Dartington Hall Trust European Regional Development Fund KPMG Local Access Foundation Lloyds Bank Foundation NHS England Power to Change Quartet Community Foundation The Care Forum The National Lottery VWV

Tom Aditya, Bristol Multi-Faith Forum Steve Baker, InHope Aisling Bennett, Oasis Hub North Bristol Jac Blacker, Avonmouth Community Centre Kyra Bond, Womankind Poppy Brett, Lifecycle Anna Brown, Talking Money Dom Wood, 1625 Independent People Fiona Castle, Imayla Anndeloris Chacon, Bristol Black Carers Makala Cheung, Filwood Community Centre Daniel Cheesman, Paul's Place Richard Churchill, independent consultant Mya-Rose Craig, Black2Nature Nia Crouch, UWE Bristol Alistair Dale, Youth Moves David Dravie-John, Pax Productions Ltd. Julie Edwards, BAND Graham England, ARA Elaine Flint, Wellspring Healthy Living Centre Frances Fox, The Bridge Foundation Albert Gardiner, independent consultant Lydia Green, The Hub Bristol Ruth Green, BS3 Roger Griffith, Ujima Radio Claire Hayward, Freeways Antony Hill, Barnardos Marion Holcombe, Headway Patsy Hudson, Off the Record Karen Lloyd, Bristol Active Ageing Suzi Mackenzie, Scope (Bristol Reggae Orchestra, Bristol Mediation) Steve Nelson, Wesport Debra Newrick, Bristol Women's Voice Phil Parry, independent consultant Justin Parsons, Cats Protection Alex Raikes, SARI Rachel Robinson, Learning Partnership West Anna Smith, One25 Duncan Stanway, Barnardos Janine Starr, Oasis Hub North Bristol Suzanne Thompson, Restore Trust Buba Touray, African Voices Forum 15

For more information on becoming a member of Voscur and the range of benefits, visit www.voscur.org/about/joiningonline or call us on 0117 909 9949

/voscur /voscur

Image credits: Freepik, Macrovector and Unsplash.


Voscur, Royal Oak House, Royal Oak Avenue, Bristol, BS1 4GB Voscur is a registered charity and a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee.  Company no. 3918210.  Charity no. 1148403

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