What kind of service do you provide?
What I provide is a face to face organisational development work.
Frontline organisations tend to prefer closer, more intense methods of support such as face to face consultancy, a type of support that responds to a specific organisational development context.
A lot of very small or medium size organisations are individuals that need to learn how to go about fundraising or developing policies and procedures or how to think about pulling together a future plan.
Very often I meet people who not only have to juggle running organisation with their working life but who also struggle with the language. English is the second language for them and they need to learn the specific language of the funders. A lot of funders want to hear about things like objectives and outcomes. There is a whole language that needs translation. People like me are at point where community groups come to seek advice and that translation.
What problems do you face?
Funders have constantly felt that face to face support costs too much as you obviously have to pay someone to do this.
What happens is that big funders and support agencies believe that local community groups should find everything they need on the internet. However the internet is convoluted with stuff that’s not relevant. There are not simplified models that people can adopt and use.
Generally when you go out looking on the internet you are going with a kind of deficit model, focusing only on what you haven’t got. But when you come to someone like me, who helps with development work and capacity building, we usually start with an empowerment model. My general question is ‘How do you make a difference to society, to the local residents?’ At first people are quite apprehensive when they come to see me but when you ask them that question their eyes light up because they can tell about what works for them and what makes sense. They say ‘We run this project and we had 60 people at the event the other day…’ We collect that information to show what they do and how they make a difference. The next step is to find out what they need to make it better. I think this method is more empowering. It’s very important to teach people how to celebrate what they have already and how to enhance it.
Who can come to see you and talk to you?
The individuals and community groups who want to start or have started already and are at their next developmental stage are welcome to contact me. That could mean that they are people who have come together, tested out something like intervention and found that it has worked. They want to expand it and attract some funds to be able to deliver it. I can help them to put things in context of what they need to have in place if they want to move on and get anyone else to invest in their idea. So essentially it’s about communicating how they’re making a difference.
Last year I worked with 64 individual organisations 20 of which are on an intensive programme I deliver called Delivering Change. The rest have come because they wanted various things, they were on different stages of development and they needed that extra support to just take it to the next level.
Can you give any examples of organisations which have developed?
There are many examples. One is organisation called Creative Lifestyle. They’ve taken on some of the learning and made good use of it. They have written a media feature which captures who they are, what they do and how they make a difference. They’ve managed to produce a project plan that shows exactly what they need is. Most recently we’ve designed and developed a monitoring and evaluation system, which I’m very impressed with. They are obviously going places with all the right tools.
Another good example is Inner City Films, which is a community organisation providing media projects for young people. They came to me way back in a day when they were pulling things together, sounding out ideas about what they should go for. Then they came back after a few years to say they’ve got a piece of work funded by the Big Lottery Fund’s Reaching Communities programme. Now they are paying us as the CVS to carry out the next stage. They’ve grown to a completely new level where they have secured quite a substantial sum that is invested into their project.
How has the situation of what you do changed in recent years?
The situation is much worse. I’ve been here 17 years now. In the past I was able to be on tap when people came to seek support but there is no funding for this kind of work anymore. There is a very limited access to someone who can listen to people. My work is concentrated to run a targeted programme and to work with 20 organisations only. There are many more groups that need short interventions or long term interventions to be able to breathe life into their projects which have been delivered for a while and are at risk of falling apart. A lot of them need a little bit of care and attention.
What are the other common issues you are working on with people?
It is very useful to show people what the borough is trying to achieve and how it relates to what they are doing. When they see the connection between these two they realise they do make a difference. Some of them are working towards bringing down crime amongst young people, others are creating job and learning opportunities.
I find that a lot of my work is involved in talking to community groups and individuals to find their secondary evidence of need.
Evidence of need is placed in 3 different sections. Primary evidence is everything what is being done directly by a community group, for example the group delivers an intervention, collects all the information and knows first-hand there are a lot of people in need of a particular service.
The secondary data is usually lots of different people’s primary data put together by the local authority. Local authority produces so many brilliant ideas and research papers such as ‘Hackney Profile’ that shows what communities live where, what unemployment rates in specific areas are, where people with disabilities live and so on. I direct individuals to these strategies and findings. That really helps the groups to see they can use these data to evidence the need for their projects.
The last section of the evidence of need is tertiary, meaning all information which is available on the worldwide web, very much generalised information. There might be a community consisting of people who had to flee war in a specific part of the world, came as refugees to London and moved to Hackney because there were some other members of their community here already.
I tend to work with many community groups to help them understand these levels and how they can put their evidence about what they do and how to communicate it.
What do you like most about your work?
I love it when someone runs away with some of the direction I have provided and produces something that shows they’ve understand what I tried to convey – when they produce monitoring and evaluation framework or when they get the idea about writing outcomes and objectives. It’s very rewarding to see when people do something interesting and then are keen to take ownership of their work.