Coordination in Place: New report on local collaboration, from NPC

20 April, 2021


New Philanthropy Capital (known as NPC) has published a new report about place-based (geographical) collaboration, called Coordination in Place, to examine how attitudes to collaborating have changed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report focuses on local coordinators in Buckinghamshire, Coventry and Sutton, though its findings will be useful to anyone looking at community action in the UK.

The three areas had slightly different responses to COVID-19. Buckinghamshire quickly formed a VCSE task group, then the council later established a framework covering four themes, and the leaders for each theme meet at a strategic forum.

Coventry City Council formed a Community Recovery and Engagement Cell straight away, which involved the public sector and leaders from the VCSE sector who worked with communities on the ground. Sutton’s approach was a triage system, based on Age UK Sutton, Community Action Sutton and Volunteer Sutton working with the local council.

Initial findings, published last year, highlighted the positive aspects of local collaborative working during the pandemic, such as:

  • Faster collaboration between organisations and sectors.
  • A stronger sense of shared focus and trust between the council and the VCSE sector; working on a single shared priority.
  • Pooling data and resources.
  • Greater understanding of underlying society issues and inequalities.
  • Lowering boundaries, and more honesty about what is and isn’t working.

However, there were several threats to these opportunities, including:

  • A breakdown of trust between organisations and sectors.
  • Loss of momentum as the pandemic continued.
  • Gaps in skills and resources.
  • Difficulty keeping up with changing needs and provision.

Report authors Nicola Pritchard and Abigail Rose noted that solutions to these threats fell into three themes: finding a new focus (whilst working at a sustainable pace), meaningful community participation, and sharing local data.

Factors that affected collaboration ranged from working practices (such as the risk of burnout, and the danger of returning to the old ways of working once the crisis has passed) to the difficulties of working remotely and online, particularly around digital exclusion.

There was also a warning about the need for smaller charities to receive support for attending events, as their lower staffing levels make it harder to spare team members or get other work done. One participant in the research said:  

‘I spent seven hours on stuff that was all about crisis response, not actually about my day job … people breed meetings, and I think it’s impossible to be part of all of them.’

Ways to resolve the threats included:

  • Funding smaller charities to keep them in the process.
  • Looking at skill sharing and other ways of meeting skills gaps.
  • Local procurement leads publishing spending decisions and their intentions for social value and community development.
  • Local authorities involving VCSE organisations to co-design any new or improved data processes.

You can read the full report online now. If your organisation needs collaboration support and you are based in or around Bristol, Voscur can help. Get in touch today.