Voluntary & Community Sector Assembly
Voluntary and community services

Modernisation Group

The Modernisation Group has been designed to prepare the VCS in Shropshire for new ways of working to meet national and local government changes. The work has been split up in to three elements:

pdfBackground presentation for modernisation (68.59KB)

 Forum of Interest (FOI) Support Project (Element 1)

The support project aims to develop; The number of Forums of Interest that feel confident to tender for services and the number of Forums of Interest that feel confident to challenge for assets and services.

Penny Bason and Pauline James will be working with the various forums to enhance sustainability of VCS organisations by communication of available grants, support services and private sector partnerships. The consultants will investigate and help forums develop service delivery models by working in collaboration with the Contracting Vehicle and the Extended Partnership projects.

Part of the project involves interpreting local and national guidance on changes in service provision and helping to faciliatate a two way communication between Shropshire Council and the Forums as well as identify support resources required by the Forums and implement support packages as required.

For more information on the work that is being undertaken plase contact:



Development of the Shropshire Consortium (Element 2)

pdfConsortia working presentation (563.67KB)

iSE Consultants (Sarah Crawley & Elizabeth Barker) have been appointed to undertake consultancy work to develop a Shropshire Consortium.

Consortium working is not new. There have been voluntary sector organisations operating as part of consortia for many years. Consortium working does have a particular prominence now and its relevance is amplified by the challenges currently facing the voluntary sector.

So why Consortium working now?

Certainly the extent to which voluntary organisations can continue to rely on grants from local government is diminishing. In place of grants, many voluntary organisations are looking to opportunities for funding provided through statutory commissioning. Public bodies in most places are encouraging a shift from grants to contracts. Allied to this has been an accelerated drive towards rationalisation in contracting frameworks and arrangements. In practice, this has translated into the formation amongst service providers of delivery partnerships, consortia, networks and other forms of joint venture. A key defining feature of these developments has been the creation of what might be described as "a single point of contracting". In other words, instead of public bodies having to contract with a whole number of small voluntary and community service providers, with the perception that money is being wasted through the set up and maintenance of multiple contracting chains, they have contracted with a single "super provider" or managing agent that is capable of embracing a network of grass roots providers through sub-contracting mechanisms.

However, the onus isn't just on commissioning practice needing to adapt. Voluntary organisations need to be looking at their business models and specifically their readiness to work with other organisations to deliver services on a scale that surpasses their own capacity. Collaboration should lead to joint business models that are 'more than the sum of their parts'. The problem for voluntary organisations is that their current business models are often too small scale, narrow or niche to deliver services at the scale that statutory bodies are looking to commission. Organisations have been put off consortium working because of perceived threats to their independence, but the models described in this booklet show how partnerships can be achieved without these handicaps. Many of the case studies speak to the benefits of working as part of a consortium. To provide better services in times of cuts, voluntary organisations need to collaborate in order to be able to engage with the multiple needs of commissioners to provide better services whilst protecting the local community ecology. And beyond the cuts agenda, consortia can be used as ways of breaking into new markets, developing new ways of working, and diversifying what organisations have to offer.

Which Organisations can form part of a consortium?

There are no hard and fast rules for organisations joining Consortia and it is beneficial for a consortium to have a range of organisations as members, bringing with them a wealth of experience, which will be of interest to potential future Commissioners. In the main organisations will be either: voluntary or community groups, charities, Social Enterprises or Community Interest Companies, and can range from the very small with little financial backing to larger local, regional or national organisations with significantly larger budgets and reserves. However, each organisation will need to satisfy the agreed membership criteria of a consortium.

Small VCSE organisations

Consortia working for smaller organisations can be hugely beneficial. Longer term it may bring financial stability for them, but also the opportunity to work with a larger network of agencies who can complement the work they deliver. The advantages of a smaller organisation being part of a consortium can include: the chance to be mentored by a more established organisation through a quality assurance process, access to bigger contracts and training opportunities. For smaller organisations there is an element of safety in numbers as often they will have few members of staff whose capacity is limited
in terms of potential contribution to the consortium.

Large VCSE Organisations

It is important for any consortium not to rule out involvement of large local or national VCSE organisations, as they often bring with them a wealth of experience, have more capacity to support the consortium and are likely to have financial ability to bid/tender for larger contracting/commissioning opportunities. They will also often have workers who specialise in certain aspect of business, training, etc. that can benefit the consortium and support smaller organisations to grow.

iSE consultants will be working with a steering group to develop this consortium and will actively look to engage with voluntary organisations throughout Shropshire. For more information on the above please contact:

Sarah Crawley, iSE on 0121 771 1411 or Sarah.crawley@i-se.co.uk

Elizabeth Barker, iSE on 0121 771 1411 or elizabeth.barker@i-se.co.uk


Extending Partnerships (Element 3)

Would you like to secure private sector investment for your organisations or generally increase your business know how?

Impact Consultancy (Sarah Fishbourne and Claire Carter) and The Community Foundation for Shropshire and Telford (Lynne Carney) have been appointed to undertake consultancy work with the VCSA for Element 3.  The purpose of the work, which is referred to as Extended Partnerships, is to develop closer working relationships between the voluntary and community sector (including social enterprise) and the private sector.  The Key objectives of the work are:

?  To develop a shared understanding and awareness of the benefits of collaborative working between the voluntary and community sector and the private sector

? To access the skills and expertise available within Shropshire's private sector and introduce business language and business skills into Shropshire's voluntary and community sector

?  To offer Shropshire's private sector the skills and experience the VCS has to offer such as in delivering social value, engaging individuals considered 'hard to reach', understanding community needs and delivering public sector contracts

? To encourage the private sector to make a difference through corporate social responsibility

?  To develop opportunities for private sector and VCS service delivery partnerships and joint contracts and initiate pilot projects to highlight and evaluate how this may best work.

The following objectives will be achieved through working with VCS, private and public sector partners to; address the barriers that prevent cross-sector working; broker relationships, identify opportunities for collaboration, and test out a range of pilot approaches to encourage skill sharing and mutual understanding between the sectors. Examples from other parts of the country will also be used to identify how  productive partnerships can be developed.

The Extended Partnerships is one of three pieces of work currently being undertaken by the VCSA.  The other two are; work to set up a trading company which will act as a  commissioning vehicle for VCSA members. (this is being undertaken by Sarah Crawley for the Institute of Social Entrepreneurs) and work with each of the VCSA Forums of Interest to develop business opportunities (this is being undertaken by Penny Bason and Pauline James).

Impact Consultancy will be working with the VCSA until June/July 2012 but Lynne Carney's work will continue beyond this time, to ensure continuity within the county.

Form more information on the above please contact;

Sarah Fishbourne, Impact Consultancy on 01432 860323 or sfishbourne@tiscali.co.uk

Claire Carter, Impact Consultancy on 01694 731759 or jigsawconsultancy@btiniternet.com

Lynne Carney, The Community Foundation for Shropshire and Telford, 01743 343879 or lcarney@cfshropshireandltelford.org.uk