A panel of 11 members of the Strategic Working Group (SWG) has been meeting weekly for the last ten weeks to develop recommendations for what services should be delivered, and how, under the new TLI arrangements.
What services should the new TLI organisation deliver itself?
Which user-groups should it prioritise for support, and how?
How should it work in partnership with other specialist infrastructure organisations?
What other behind-the-scenes activity should the organisation do?
What should it prioritise in its first year and in later years?
The panel is still finalising its recommendations but I hope this blog post gives you a flavour of its thinking. Please bear in mind that these are just a few headlines from a summary of a process that hasn’t yet completed, that the panel is only making recommendations – which will be worked up by the Programme Delivery Group (PDG) into a preferred option (which it will then consult community and voluntary groups and organisations about), and that (I think the panel would agree!) the initial deliberations produced something of a wishlist, which we are now getting more realistic about.
A strategic role
The panel sees the TLI organisation playing a strong strategic role in the city, for example influencing funders: to require and fund groups and organisations to assess their needs and develop good practice; to provide funding for HR/legal/financial support; and to tie funding to outcomes rather than numbers of groups created.
The panel wants the TLI organisation to work with other infrastructure organisations to ensure they approach diagnosing the needs of groups and organisations that ask for help, in a consistent way, and signpost effectively.
Equality and diversity
The panel includes representatives from The Federation of Disabled People and BMECP and is considering how groups and organisations that currently miss out on support might be reached. Its recommendations are based on making future services as accessible as possible.
The panel is considering the idea of a caseworker approach, whereby each community and voluntary group or organisation that interacts with the TLI organisation, or an infrastructure organisation working in partnership with it, is assigned to a specific worker. This caseworker wouldn’t necessarily be the key point of contact for the group or organisation but would maintain an overview of the support it was receiving and ensure that it was appropriately supported and signposted.
A community development approach
The panel is recommending that infrastructure support is led and guided by community development principles.
Enabling you to share knowledge
The panel recognises that there is a huge amount of knowledge within the community and voluntary sector and recommends that facilitated peer learning opportunities are developed as an effective, and cost-effective, way to support groups and organisations to develop good practice.
The panel is making recommendations on how to integrate and deliver services including volunteer support and brokerage, consultancy, training, mentoring, corporate support, community development, resource brokerage, information provision and representation & influencing. It is likely to recommend that, while some services are offered free (at least to priority groups), others are charged-for.
The panel has been considering whether the TLI organisation should provide an incubation service to foster the development of groups/organisations which would address gaps in the sector. It is mindful that such a service should promote empowerment and not foster dependency, and that it would not be efficient/effective if it was used to ensure the continuity of organisations in crisis. In addition, the TLI organisation would need to manage conflicts of interest (to avoid member-led infrastructure arrangements delivering frontline services in competition with members).
A volunteering organisation
The panel recommends that volunteering runs throughout the new organisation, which will require resourcing the development of an internal volunteering programme (in consultation with relevant stakeholders).
What needs doing first?
The panel suggests that there will be significant work to do, in the first year of the TLI organisation’s operation, to publicise and develop groups and organisations’ understanding of the new arrangements, and to ensure its staff are appropriately skilled.
What do you think? Is an incubation service a good idea? Would you like a caseworker? What should the organisation prioritise in its first year? Comment below.