Fit for the Future Award
This award is for an organisation or group that has taken action to strengthen their resilience and increase adaptability to respond to new opportunities and emerging needs.

Voting is now closed. The winner will be announced at the Voscurs Awards Ceremony on Thursday 31 January 2019. Click here for more information and to book your place.

Avon and Bristol Law Centre | Brave Bold Drama | Brigstowe | The Southmead Project
 

Avon and Bristol Law Centre
Please tell us about the difficulties faced:
The main difficulties facing Avon and Bristol Law Centre (ABLC) is that demand for legal advice and representation is growing, at a time when traditional funding streams have been seriously reduced. In 2014/15 reductions in legal aid and local council funding resulted in a deficit of £108,000 (expenditure: £861,000).  We sought innovative solutions to ensure the reduced funding had minimal impact on our clients. This included securing funding in the field of welfare benefits to train up local law students in the area of Employment Support Allowance Appeals. This project achieved a 95% success rate in appeals, compared to the 59% national average, and secured £1.2m in benefits for claimants in the first year. This rose to £1.5m last year. However, in 2015/16 ABLC had a further deficit of £89,000 (expenditure: £806,000) and in 2016/17 the Director, Practice Manager and Treasurer all resigned.
Please tell us how the difficulties were addressed:
• Developed and implemented a financial recovery plan which included reducing back office costs, selling our premises and investing in a cheaper building.
• Attracted new grant funding for innovative projects and much needed core funding
• Implemented a robust performance management framework. Resulting in improved performance and increased legal aid funding.
• Analysed client data leading to improvements in signposting and referrals, thus saving reception time and improving the client journey.
• Recruited a Communications Manager to further improve communications and marketing to all stakeholders including commissioning a new website.
• Estimated the value added by our volunteers and as a result recruited a Volunteer Coordinator to improve the volunteer experience and reduce attrition rates
• Improved internal policies and procedures. This year’s LEXCEL quality assessment found that we had significantly improved in all areas. External auditors have also praised the charity for its improved financial management systems.
Please tell us how effective provision of the project has been maintained:
The team has responded extremely well to the changes and attrition rates and staff morale have improved dramatically. This is evidenced by the scores from the annual staff survey, which are much improved on previous years.
Policies and procedures have been adopted and embedded and form part of line management processes.
We have developed an income generation plan which provides clear direction and links to the updated business plan and strategic plan.
We are working with clients to ensure we do not become complacent and that the service continues to improve.
Trustees now feel better informed and they have better access to performance data, which has enabled them to use their time more effectively and provide valued support and constructive challenge to the charity.
Please tell us about the prospects for ongoing sustainability of the project / group:
We are really pleased with what we have achieved. However, this would not have been possible without the outstanding contribution and commitment of every member of the team. There will continue to be serious financial challenges.  Nevertheless, we are confident that the changes made by the team will enable the charity to develop and grow. It has been a transformational two years and it has been challenging but the team have demonstrated they are resilient and fully committed to the delivery of the strategic plan. This includes working with Access to Justice and local law firms to offer training contracts to enable new solicitors to qualify in Social Welfare Law. Our most recently qualified member of staff was recognised in the Bristol Law Society Awards in the category of best new lawyer award.
Finally the litmus test regarding prospects for ongoing sustainability was met this year when 100% of staff members stated they would recommend working for the Law Centre.  It is an organisation with a clear strategic plan, shared values and good management systems. As long as systems are maintained the charity will continue to thrive.
How it has either a) learned from previous challenges to become stronger or b) identified changing public demands and adapted to address these demands more effectively:
Law Centres have historically been funded through Local Authority Funding and Legal Aid Funding. When these funding streams were reduced the Law Centre was slow to respond and as a result ended several years with a financial deficit.  The Law Centre has learnt to maintain financial sustainability it needs to diversify its funding streams. This in essence means becoming less reliant on any one funding stream and attracting funding from a number of sources.  We have also learnt partnerships are vital and have secured funding through a number of collaborations. We have also encouraged other organisations to collaborate to fund projects delivered by the Law Centre, for example our Pro Bono work is currently funded by the University of Bristol, Legal Education Foundation, 3 law firms, and a private major donor. Finally we have learnt to attract funding we need to build relationships, have clear plans in place, good reporting processes and to be resilient and persistent.

Brave Bold Drama
Please tell us about the difficulties faced:
Brave Bold Drama are two amazing individuals, one of whom is a single mum of three which has its own challenges! They had to learn a huge amount in a short time about how to maintain a building, raise the profile of it and their activities, and bring people who have not had experience of the arts to their space. The building has several issues which they have systematically addressed including needing blinds, new flooring, clearing the outside and making it more visible. It is owned by the church which means they have to consult them on any changes. As well as the challenge of running a theatre company and managing and improving a building, they have tried to make the café sustainable both financially and in terms of their own time. Two locals tried running it but that did not work so they are taking a new approach.
Please tell us how the difficulties were addressed:
They have worked with local groups and businesses to bring in free help with e.g. making and fixing signs to the outside of the building and clearing the outside. They have worked hard and written various funding applications for specific pieces of work. They have approached some corporate organisations to bring in volunteers. They have got a good range of trustees overseeing and supporting their work. They have learned from their mistakes (e.g. the café) and prioritised things that make a big impact e.g. blinds mean the space is improved for theatre shows and will make a great community cinema when/if they get the funds. They have worked with local schools and other organisations/groups to raise the profile of the building and encourage a sense of community ownership. They design their activities and shows to appeal to a range of ages, abilities and interests while keeping them highly affordable.
Please tell us how effective provision of the project has been maintained:
BBD run craft activities, workshop, the Arts Award programme and theatre courses and more. They have worked hard to widen their income streams so that the activities they provide are accessible to the local community. They have worked with students and volunteers to help run these activities, helping to build their audience and bring in income via donations and the café. They rent out the rehearsal space. They have also secured Arts Council funding which helps towards running costs. Their careful management has meant they have saved money towards paid staff to help with workshops etc. in the future. They have brought in excellent local theatre shows that have brought in audiences new to theatre (as well as putting on their own shows) and used local craft facilitators and their own skills to run workshops. All of these things have meant the provision at Creative Workspace has been effective.
Please tell us about the prospects for ongoing sustainability of the project / group:
To make Brave Bold Drama more fit for the future, they have been: analysing participant data to use to pitch sponsorship packages to some big NPO arts organisations such as Bristol Old Vic and Tobacco Factory; applying for funding to renovate the toilets and also to get a projector/screen in the main space so it is fit for purpose for corporate hires; putting the cafe space out to tender to an experienced caterer. They are also starting a campaign to boost online regular donations from the public and are hoping to create a community cinema. They have worked closely with their trustees to make the most of funding opportunities, drawing on their skills and knowledge to help with sustainability. A key funding application to the Arts Council has secured running costs for the next two years, allowing them to look at other aspects of income generation.
How it has either a) learned from previous challenges to become stronger or b) identified changing public demands and adapted to address these demands more effectively:
The most recent challenge is the cafe space. Originally, Brave Bold Drama ran the cafe themselves on days with activities on (usually school holidays). However, this meant they could not run activities, develop shows and so on, and were often reliant on volunteers on busy days. When they were approached by two local ladies who shared similar values, it seemed like a good fit. They also wanted to run the café four days a week. However, as the profile of Creative Workspace has increased, so has the level of participants on activity days. This meant the café was very busy on these days but could be quiet in between. The two ladies have now handed in their notice and Brave Bold Drama have been working with the trustees to draft a tender document and contract. This will be used to tender for an experienced catering organisation to take on the café in the new year.

Brigstowe
Please tell us about the difficulties faced:
HIV services funding had been reducing for over a decade, and Brigstowe had been working to adapt and absorb these cuts. In 2017 it faced a sudden 100% local authority funding cut combined with nationwide reductions to funding. To survive and secure ongoing support for the vulnerable individuals Brigstowe works with they had to both challenge and reverse the proposed cut and adapt to make sure the organisation was able to move forward while still meeting the needs of the community it serves.   
An additional challenge was to do more with less - how to develop new services and increased provision without being able to significantly increase paid staff numbers or resources.  
The HIV community was also telling Brigstowe that awareness raising and campaigning were a priority for them - key to HIV prevention work and reducing stigma - but these were not areas Brigstowe had traditionally worked in.
Please tell us how the difficulties were addressed:
Brigstowe was founded to support people living with HIV. Service users, many of who had not spoken openly before about their HIV status, stepped up to talk to decision makers, telling their stories and demonstrating the life-changing impact and difference Brigstowe has. The connection and understanding this developed resulted in a cut of only 15% to their local authority funding.  
Brigstowe secured new funding from the Local Sustainability Fund and BIG Lottery to strengthen organisational development including: improving monitoring and evaluation, IT systems and hardware, and moving offices, to increase efficiency and reduce costs. Brigstowe also developed new services and restructured to respond to changing community needs.   
They developed new volunteer roles from Peer Support Mentors and Positive Speakers to campaigns, administration and fundraising. This allowed Brigstowe to increase their service offer and develop their awareness-raising role. Brigstowe also further strengthened their board of trustees identifying skills that could benefit the organisation and recruiting people with the relevant expertise.
Please tell us how effective provision of the project has been maintained:
National and local cuts to HIV services meant there was a risk of provision being lost in Bristol. To make sure services were maintained in the city Brigstowe worked in partnership with Terrance Higgins Trust to develop and deliver a joint service that avoided competition and duplication.   
They secured funding that allowed them to invest in systems and infrastructure so that they could work more efficiently providing better value for funders and better services for the people they support.  
The role and value of well supported and organised volunteers and also that of fundraising and individual & corporate giving were recognised and staff time allocated to make sure these areas could grow. The benefits of this approach were realised through new services and a more visible role in awareness raising and HIV prevention work for Brigstowe - something the HIV community had fed back was a priority for them.
Please tell us about the prospects for ongoing sustainability of the project / group:
Significant funding secured for projects from bodies such as BIG Lottery for 2-3 years give Brigstowe a solid base from which they can deliver services while working to secure further long-term funding. Work undertaken to build understanding and relationships with decision makers also puts Brigstowe in a stronger position for year-on-year local authority funding.   
Fundraising, individual and corporate giving has increased. Existing organisational knowledge and expertise which can benefit other groups and generate income, such as their Peer Support model and HIV awareness training has been identified.
Partnership work with national organisations including Terrance Higgins Trust and PREPSTER has been developed. With support from VOSCUR, Brigstowe have adapted so that they are now able to work in partnership to share expertise which can support people with other long-term health conditions. A project with Bristol Community Health is bringing their Peer Support model to people living with Type 2 Diabetes. This work provides funding to secure their core services while allowing more people to benefit from a successful way of providing support.
How it has either a) learned from previous challenges to become stronger or b) identified changing public demands and adapted to address these demands more effectively:
The needs of people living with HIV have changed rapidly since Brigstowe was founded in the early 90s. This has meant Brigstowe has always had to identify and adapt to meet the needs of the people it supports. Its core support services have grown and adapted responding to need, a refugee and migrant service was developed when the specific needs of HIV+ asylum seekers were identified.  
Most recently feedback from the wider HIV community identified a desire for better Peer Support services. Brigstowe consulted with the people it supports, trustees and stakeholders and developed its Peer Support mentor programme. At the same time it also responded to a call for it to take a greater role in awareness raising and challenging stigma through campaigns work.  
At the heart of both of these are volunteers. Three years ago Brigstowe had no significant volunteer roles, through identifying demand and need and adjusting to be able to manage and support volunteers an estimated 2,500 volunteer hours were contributed to Brigstowe's work in the last financial year (2017-18).

The Southmead Project
Please tell us about the difficulties faced:
1 in 20 people have suffered abuse in childhood, mostly by people they know, but the taboo of child abuse creates a wall of silence by sufferers who often carry secrets into adulthood.  Counselling at Southmead is often the first place that these secrets are revealed and healing can begin.
Please tell us how the difficulties were addressed:
Through safe, integrative trauma-informed counselling 1-1 and in groups.  Through educating people about why they suffer from complex trauma symptoms such as PTSD, flashbacks and panic attacks.  
Please tell us how effective provision of the project has been maintained:
Through adhering to counselling ethics and high quality provision by trained, dedicated counsellors.  
Please tell us about the prospects for ongoing sustainability of the project / group:
With a new management structure and excellent coordination with the sector, fundraising continues and the agency is increasing its profile.  
How it has either a) learned from previous challenges to become stronger or b) identified changing public demands and adapted to address these demands more effectively:
The Southmead Project has reviewed it's work and is making changes and efficiencies to make sure that the 100 or so people on its waiting list can be seen.

 

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