Tower Hamlets Changeup Consortium
Meeting to discuss the future of second tier collaborative working in Tower Hamlets
Held on Thursday 5th June 2008, 2 – 5 p.m.
@ Societe General, Tower Hill
Those attending from Tower Hamlets: Cath Bavage (Volunteer Centre Tower
Hamlets), Tracey Chadwick (Tower Hamlets Partnership), Aleya Chaudhry (Tower
Hamlets Community Empowerment Network), Jenny Dawes (St. Katherine and
Shadwell Trust), Alan Green (Tower Hamlets Interfaith Forum), Badrul Islam (Ethnic
Minorities Enterprise Project – EMEP), Heather Johnson (TH Law Centre), Hilarie
Kerr (Play Association Tower Hamlets), Toni Meredew (Women in Tower Hamlets
Information Network – WITHIN), Tamara Pekelman (Cultural Industries Development
Agency – CIDA), Angela Stanworth (Disability Coalition), Barry Stoyle (Community
Organisation Forum), Vivien Thomas (Early Years Network Tower Hamlets)
Those attending from outside Tower Hamlets: Ali Ahmed (Policy and Partnership
Manager at Newham Voluntary Sector Consortium), Jake Ferguson (CEO of
Hackney CVS and member of Link Up Hackney), Martin Howie (Director of Voluntary
Action Lewisham and Chair of Changeup East London Partnership), Alice Wallace
(East London CVS Network), Jill Walsh (Capacitybuilders)
Meeting facilitated by Ceri Hutton (Independent Consultant and Trainer)
1. Introduction and context for meeting
Martin Howie welcomed all to the meeting.
The first part of the meeting allowed participants to introduce themselves, briefed
them as to the purpose and background to the meeting, and provided some context
from four different perspectives, one from within Tower Hamlets and three from
outside the borough. The following is a resume of what was outlined.
Purpose and background to meeting – Ceri Hutton
The purpose of the meeting was:
To examine the potential for a revivified Tower Hamlets Changeup Consortium, and
gain (or not) in principle support for this.
The context for the meeting was that:
Other areas are benefiting from infrastructure consortiums and have just
established plans to take work forward. Tower Hamlets is the only borough in
London where this has not happened.
There is support available from Capacitybuilders (£19,000) to develop a
consortium during the coming year, provided Local Infrastructure
Organisations (LIOs) can show that they are committed to working together
Much funding is increasingly based on establishing effective partnership
working, including amongst LIOs. In particular, there is a BASIS funding
round (deadline August 2008) which could make available funding up to the
tune of £500,000 over three years provided committed joint working is
established. Tower Hamlets is a priority borough for this funding.
Several other opportunities for funding joint infrastructural work are likely to
be ‘in the pipeline’, and can be accessed if groups are prepared to work
Much good work is already happening in Tower Hamlets, and although the
Changeup consortium has currently petered out, some good work has been
achieved which could be built on
An overview of Changeup and its benefits – Martin Howie
Martin outlined that he has had positive experience of Changeup, both within
Lewisham and at the sub-regional (East London) level, where he is Chair. He pointed
out that Changeup enables planned work between infrastructure organisations, and
allows people to look forward together to future needs. “If you don’t know where
you’re going, you are never going to get there”.
By working together in partnership, infrastructure organisations in Lewisham have
levered in an additional £600 – 650 K in funding. At sub-regional level, many
advantages have been gained from providing support across 10 boroughs. Martin
listed a range of projects across the sub-region which have been funded through
Changeup, and where support has enabled various aspects of capacity building work
to be supported within boroughs.
The Tower Hamlets Experience to date – Barry Stoyle
THIN (Tower Hamlets Infrastructure Network) is the name of Tower Hamlets
Changeup consortium. Barry came late to THIN in February 2007, by which time
impetus had fallen off for a variety of reasons, but before that it had achieved a quite
a lot together.
THIN had a development plan developed in 2004 which was its key document. In
order to develop this, THIN had undertaken a survey of 500 groups in the borough.
This survey had identified certain areas as key priorities for co-operation amongst
Barry outlined that he believed that the Development Plan, which was updated in
2007, continues to be relevant in terms of its priorities for capacity building work
across Tower Hamlets. In addition to the plan, there were other key and concrete
achievements, as follows:
Developing access to advice services with the Law Centre
Capacity building programme on commissioning
Work on an accreditation board (never finally agreed)
Feasibility study into organisational crisis management
Development of a human resources strategy
Work on ICT with the sub-regional circuit rider
Beginnings of work on a comprehensive premises strategy, looking at sharing
resources for the sector, which needs taking forward
Notable successes in volunteering, with a volunteering infrastructure strategy.
This included a) the Volunteer Centre achieving accreditation with
Volunteering England b) Working on Excellence in Volunteer Management
Training c) Mapping volunteering involvement and infrastructure capacity d)
Development of specialist volunteering programme
Some of the initiatives based in LBTH, Children’s Centres
Work in community and social enterprise
Work started around workforce development
Work started around Older People
Why has THIN run into difficulties?
Coming in at the tail end of THIN, Barry felt he did not fully understand the history or
ramifications of THIN’s difficulties. However, it was fair to say that THIN had petered
out rather than blown apart. The most obvious reasons for this were:
At its most mundane, people stopped attending THIN meetings and stopped
replying to emails, despite efforts to increase and broaden the membership.
There was a lack of feedback
Lack of in house co-ordination.
People were not positive about the assessment process that rather
dominated during the latter part of last year, and ousted more concrete work
projects and objectives.
Lack of meaningful public and private sector involvement at strategic level
Lack of time and resources amongst infrastructure organisations themselves
Particular Tower Hamlets issues - sector seems to be segregated and
competitive amongst itself
Barry acknowledged that there may be other factors, but that the above needed to be
addressed in order to move forward. He confirmed that, should the consortium start
up again, COF would be able to provide in house support.
Finally Barry summed up COF’s position vis-à-vis a revitalised Consortium, as
“I would urge everybody not to pick over the carcass of THIN too much. You will
decide if you want to establish THIN Mark 2 by making a commitment to make it
work. It would be a great shame if we cannot find a way forward and tap into some of
the resources available (such as BASIS), and get on with some work in partnership.
COF would be honoured to lead the process”
The Newham Experience – Ali Ahmed
Ali talked about how Newham organisations had come together around the
Changeup agenda. Before Changeup, organisations had been divided into specialist
and generalist infrastructure organisations, but they now work together to deliver
services. Newham’s Changeup consortium has “enabled us to acknowledge that we
have shared issues”.
Ali acknowledged that it was extremely difficult to get the consortium off the ground.
People didn’t understand it at first at all, and there were divisions and factions, and it
was sometimes difficult to get people to even sit in the same room! However they
persevered, and innovative projects were established and delivered. Over time
relations have vastly improved, to the benefit of all – particularly the frontline groups.
Newham has managed to lever in an additional £500K through Changeup activity.
There are still sometimes difficulties, but now infrastructure services have expanded
and improved. Previously service provision was very patchy, particularly South of the
borough, but is now much more evenly spread.
Ali emphasised that having a dedicated co-ordinator for the Consortium was a
considerable help – to achieve the momentum this is really needed. In addition, they
had ensured that there were at least 3 or 4 members per project, which had brought
people together working on practical delivery programmes.
The Hackney Experience – Jake Ferguson
Jake outlined how Hackney had had two CVSs when Changeup started – the
Volunteer Bureau and the CVS. At the first meeting back in 2004 they had realised
how very little the infrastructure organisations knew about each other, and what they
Hackney Changeup Consortium had branded itself ‘Link Up’, and had committed to
working together despite of initial difficulties. They had kept in their mind that if
infrastructure organisations were not working together well, the poor frontline groups
were ultimately the ones who suffered and didn’t receive the kind of joined up
services they needed.
When the Hackney Changeup Plan was created in 2004, organisations had realised
that they actually had very similar priorities. In order to create this plan, they had
brought in an external consultant which had helped to get over some of the tensions
and factional issues (Ceri Hutton).
Once the plan had been established, relations improved greatly. Link Up established
a Steering Group which basically oversaw all the administrative and funding issues of
the Consortium, leaving the wider consortium to focus on the externally-facing
projects and priorities. The CVS was the lead agency for the CEN, and the CEN was
very supportive of Link Up (as well as being a member), co-funding some of the key
Link Up undertook substantial research about its clients and groups which was
launched in 2006. This revealed that some elements of the sector were not getting
the support they needed, and helped form priorities.
Link Up members still work together and are still delivering services. They are now
deciding annually a ‘Statement of Partnership’, and have constructive relationships
with the LSP. Jake emphasised finally that though infrastructure organisations in
Hackney had been in a bad space at the beginning of Changeup, working together
had helped a lot and brought people together: “Ultimately, we’re small fish in a very
bad world, and we need to stick together”.
Comments from members at the meeting
Tower Hamlets CEN informed the meeting that they have recently established a PIN
(Partnership Improvement Network) which needs to be taken into account in future
discussions. Those present wanted to know if the PIN was for infrastructure
organisations and delivered capacity building, and agreed that this was something
that a Changeup consortium would need to clarify and include in its planning.
2. Issues identified at the meeting
Group discussion: What are our concerns about revitalising a Changeup
Consortium in Tower Hamlets, and what can we do to mitigate these
Participants were asked, in three groups, to address the following question and then
feedback to the whole meeting. The following is a summary of the feedback. The
precise transcript of all group findings is available.
a. Competing interests, factions, hostility and a reluctance to work together
All three groups identified this as a problem. Particular problems noted here were:
BASIS will not fund any proposal if it receives competing bids, and the CVS is
expected to lead if they are prepared to
There is a potential split between voluntary and community organisations
b. Duplication of existing work
There are other networks operating in the borough. CEN stated at the meeting that
they had just set up a PIN (Partnership Improvement Network) which would need to
be taken into account, and there may be others.
c. Lack of resources to take forward the work
Without a dedicated worker and a strong lead body the Consortium will not be able to
inject enough vision and impetus into shaping the work
d. The benefits of being involved will not be clear enough, and interest and
commitment will therefore not be gained
All agreed that meeting for meetings sake is not an attractive or useful option – the
work needs to be externally-focussed.
e. Frontline groups, and Consortium members, may expect too much
Partnership working takes time and effort, and realistically there are not currently
many resources to do this with. Expectations will need to be managed, and realistic
f. Bureaucracy will dominate at the expense of real work
Meetings need to be task-focussed if people are to be motivated to attend
g. If it doesn’t work, Tower Hamlets will lose out on funding opportunities
As well as BASIS, other funding opportunities are in the pipeline which may be lost.
In addition, local groups will not be getting real value for money if a consortium does
h. Unfunded time needed from Consortium members
People are busy – they will need to see the point of attending.
What any revitalised Consortium must do if it is to succeed
a. The past relationship difficulties between COF and CEN needs to be
acknowledged and moved forward. Roles and relationships need to be
worked through. Successful partnership working between infrastructure
services in the borough will suffer if it does not. An external facilitator or Chair
or body may help with this process, it was felt.
b. Have a dedicated worker (Changeup officer) otherwise the impetus will not be
gained. Proactive engagement is needed if all are to be involved – it will not
be enough to send out emails and expect the work to take shape.
Encouragement and proactive co-ordination is needed. Some suggested that
an external player could be useful in providing this at least initially.
c. The role and authority of the accountable body to co-ordinate the work needs
to be acknowledged, and the accountable body needs to be strong.
d. Use the existing resources to take work forward i.e. Capacitybuilders £19K,
plus 5 – 10 consultancy days.
e. Involve local authority and political players in order to get support for the
consortium’s work, including potentially councillors.
f. Make the benefits and incentives of working together clear from the outset
(set them down) and focus on externally-focussed work.
g. Quick wins needed, and a focus on real local issues rather than spend time
discussing the internal workings of the Consortium. First year plan needs to
include clear, measurable and achievable outcomes.
h. Mechanism for taking forward ‘Consortium admin’ may be a good idea e.g.
Steering Group (drawing on Hackney and Newham experience).
i. Membership of the Consortium needs to be clarified – who will be included
and invited. It needs to be representative, but also clear that it will be for
second tier organisations.
j. Get a signed statement of commitment to the Consortium and the principles
of co-working from a range of local infrastructure organisations.
k. Make the meetings useful – not too frequent, short and focusing on real work
l. “Out with the old and in with the new” needs to be the watchword
m. Trust needs to be developed over time, through the work
What could it achieve?
a. Consortium could improve quality by e.g. bringing together certain types of
capacity building specialists across Tower Hamlets
b. Pooled intelligence on what is going on both locally and across London
c. Joint funding opportunities will be possible
d. Better work with strategic bodies – they like working with positive consortia
e. Reduce confusion (and extend choice) for frontline agencies if communication
from the Consortium streamline existing information
f. Reduce duplication of work and effort by bringing infrastructure organisations
working on similar areas together
g. May reduce competition but competition can be necessary at times
h. Could improve commissioning processes, and organisations which are ‘below
the radar’ of commissioners benefit from being involved in consortia
3. Agreements made at the meeting
Following the group work and feedback, participants agreed that:
a) In principle, they wanted to see a revitalised Tower Hamlets Changeup
b) In principle they wanted to see a BASIS bid submitted from this Consortium
c) An action planning group would be established to oversee:
Development of the Consortium
Formulation of a BASIS funding bid from the Consortium
People identified their interest at the meeting, and are to be invited to a follow on
meeting to take this forward on Wednesday July 2nd.