During the COVID-19 crisis, we've seen councils and Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) organisations collaborate with transparency and pace not commonly seen before to provide vital support services to those in need. Throughout the pandemic, we've noticed the most successful relationships are those where councils are dropping siloed hierarchical ways of working, re-shaping commissioning and/or fast-tracking funding towards the VCS.
Last spring, the VCS did not wait for direction, instead, they reacted quickly to respond to the needs of those in their communities. Community hubs of all sorts were formalised and different organisations started collaborating and creating impact together.
Building on new ways of working
COVID-19 created a universal purpose where the VCS and council priorities aligned. Many began asking themselves how to preserve that clarity as we transition into the different demands from the pandemic and begin to look to recovery. The crisis highlighted barriers to more effective and sustainable, cross-community working. Yet it also created energy and space to truly start working differently. The collaboration provided an opportunity to keep building on the innovation achieved throughout 2020.
Last year we worked closely with Trafford Council’s modernisation team to understand how we could support them with culture change. A part of that change was to consider how we could build on the coordinated work between the council and VCS that came out of the first wave:
- if we rethink our strategic role as investor and commissioner of the VCS sector, we think it will become more stable and better able to deliver change for residents
- if we have a shared view of the change we all want for residents, then partners are better able to design services to meet them
- if we align with partners and communities on how we work together, we think we can better collaborate and deliver services, building on the community response to COVID-19
A few months later we started developing a pilot solution around the second opportunity through an MHCLG C19 recovery fund project which brought together LOTI, Camden Council and Central Bedfordshire Council to improve data sharing between the VCS and councils.