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Engaging Partners & Stakeholders

Identifying partners

Tackling child poverty locally is a collective challenge and it may be more efficient and powerful if strong partnerships are formed to ensure collective responsibility. Promoting the idea that tackling child poverty is everybody's business encourages everyone to reflect on the relevance of their daily work.

How to identify your partners?

Partners will be determined by local circumstances and the outcomes that you want to achieve. When determining your partners it may be useful to consider the following questions

  • Which organisations or services in your local area tackle child poverty? Do they have a specific function or role? Are there any gaps in provision?
  • What organisations or services target the same groups as you? Do they have a measurable impact on child poverty but don't consider it one of their main functions? How can you make contact?
  • Do you share the same overall goals and desired outcomes? If you don't share all the same goals are there areas in which to establish a common ground?
  • What are the key strengths that they / you could bring to the table?
  • Do you / they have any weaknesses that need to be considered?
  • Are they / you willing to work flexibly and collaboratively across traditional boundaries including areas such as budgets? Are there any areas where they / you are not willing to compromise?
  • Do you or any of the partners have a history of joint working? Is there anything you can learn from this experience?

Source - Embedding an outcomes based approach in tackling poverty SGISpilot project

 

Working with partners

Working with partners

What should a strong partnership look like?
A successful outcomes focused child poverty partnership should aim to have the following…

  • A clear, shared vision concerning the priority outcomes sought by the partnership
  • Strong and effective leadership
  • A clear understanding of the 'value added' sought through a partnership approach
  • The necessary systems and procedures in place that will provide the right structure and culture for effective partnership working
  • An agreed and achievable action plan, which clarifies responsibility &accountability for delivering the desired outcomes
  • A partnership performance management framework which regularly assesses progress towards the achievement of agreed outcomes

Collaborative Gain

'Collaborative Gain' describes a situation where partnership working brings about added value benefits, which could not have been achieved by the individual partner organisations or stakeholders operating on their own. In short, it is about achieving 'more than the sum of the parts'. Collaborative gain can take many forms, for example, an employability service partnering with a local nursery to market its services may increase the number of potential returners to the labour market. For collaborative gain to be effective the following points should be taken into account..

  • Collaborative gain needs to be clear and specific - clarity is required on precisely what gain is desired and how it is likely to come about.
  • Any anticipated 'gain' to be achieved requires to outweigh the costs associated with partnership working (eg. administrative, legal or opportunity costs).
  • Gain rarely happens by chance - it requires to be planned for, designed in and monitored to ensure it is actually being achieved.

Source - Embedding an outcomes based approach in tackling poverty SGISpilot project

 

Engaging stakeholders

There are key reasons why a more participatory culture has developed in recent years:

  • Legitimacy. At the very least, working with service users ensures that service providers are better able to demonstrate grassroots demand and necessity for their work.
  • Success through ownership.  The likelihood of project success may be greater if users and beneficiaries are more committed to the work; commitment is fostered through participation.
  • Success through identifying priorities. Bringing service providers closer to everyday lived realities is more likely to ensure that the most appropriate interventions are delivered in the most appropriate way.
  • Personal development.  The process of participation affords opportunities for skill enhancement.
  • Enhancing well-being. Participation challenges the perception that those in positions of power and responsibility do not respect or show interest in children and families living in regeneration areas or living in poverty.
  • Rights perspective.  In addition to each of the tangible, practical benefits of engagement, more fundamentally, it could be argued that it is children and families basic right to be involved in matters that affect them.

Source - Learning point 61 - Children and Young People as researchers

Hints and tips on communicating with communities

Communicating with people experiencing poverty and their children is extremely important. In many ways they may have a greater need for services while also experiencing greater barriers to accessing them. Children and their parents living in poverty may have particular difficulties in communicating, such as:

  • lack of access to IT - the 'digital divide'
  • lower literacy levels
  • limited social interaction outside their immediate area because of higher unemployment, poor health and low incomes

Local knowledge and understanding the diversity of the community are essential, as is understanding the way different groups like to communicate. Some people will prefer direct contact, either face-to-face or over the phone. Others may prefer communicating through the web, text messaging, blogs and podcasts. Some may need very directly targeted communication because disability, culture, language or literacy may be a factor. Community centres and residents' organisations can be particularly effective channels for two-way communication.

Determining the type of engagement will depend on exactly what you are wanting to engage on, whether it is policy development, service design or service delivery. Quality engagement can improve your reputation and build trust. However if not done well it can cause mistrust and apathy. Organisations are most likely to win residents' trust and encourage participation if they are clear at the outset why they are consulting and what participants can and can't influence. They should also tell people what has happened as a result of a consultation and why.

Source - Idea community engagement pages

 

Assets and Capacity Building

There are many different ways in which communities can become more empowered and build capacity. There is no one model which would fit every circumstance. For some it will involve owning assets, and controlling budgets, or generating their own income to re-invest. In some cases, communities will want to take action around an injustice or to protect a valued resource. Others will want to have an enhanced role in shaping the services delivered on their behalf by others.

All of these approaches can be empowering depending on the circumstances. Whatever models work for different communities, they must provide an explicit and real increase in the level of power and influence that local people have. The key thing is that empowerment cannot be given to communities by others. Communities must decide the level of empowerment they want and how to get there themselves.

Most often a critical characteristic of communities which are empowered is the existence of locally owned, community led organisations which often act as 'anchors' for the process of empowerment. These organisations, which may be the local housing association, church group, community association, development trust, community council or any combination of these, often have a range of characteristics that enable them to provide a local leadership role and a focal point for other local services and groups. Some of these characteristics include:

  • that they are multi-purpose,
  • usually operate from a physical hub,
  • and will often own or manage other community assets.

The confidence and ability of these groups is closely linked to the confidence and ability of the people who are involved in them. Individuals who feel empowered can bring a dynamic and enterprising approach to the work of their groups.

 

Reflective Questions

Enagaging Partners & Stakeholders

Reflective Questions

Policy Development

  • Have you considered the needs of all groups experiencing child poverty?
  • How can you involve the the views of those groups when deciding on your priorities?

Budgeting

  • Could you offer any groups experiencing child poverty an opportunity to express how they would allocate priorities/distribute funding?
  • Have budget details been presented in a way that a non-expert could understand?

Implementing

  • In what ways could groups experiencing child poverty report on their experiences of how the intervention was delivered to them?
  • In what ways could groups experiencing child poverty report on the impact of the intervention on them and on their family?

Monitoring/ Evaluating

  • Could any groups experiencing child poverty be involved in designing the tools for evaluation?
  • Could any groups experiencing child poverty be involved in the data collection?
  • Could any groups experiencing child poverty be involved in the writing up of the evaluation data?
  • Could any groups experiencing child poverty be involved as an expert panel to comment on the findings?

Points to consider when developing your stakeholder engagement…

Profile.  Are the people who have been consulted, representative in terms of demographic, cultural and socio-economic profile, of the broader population experiencing child poverty?

Marginal, Engaged and Institutional.  From what areas / groups have those engaged been accessed? Will this impact on your engagement? Are you only talking to the 'usual suspects'? 

Timing.  Have those been consulted been engaged at the formative stage of development? (rather than merely being informed of what has been agreed and pre-warned on what is to happen)

Evidencing Impact.  Can the contribution of people experiencing child poverty to the development of the policy process be evidenced?

Feedback Loop. What attempts have been made to explain why suggestions made by people experiencing child poverty have or have not been adopted?

Respect and Empowerment.  To what extent has the process of engagement been viewed positively by people experiencing child poverty?

Authority and Voice. Have people experiencing child poverty been directly engaged or have organisations and authority figures that speak on behalf of these populations been engaged? What difference will that make to your engagement?

Support.  Has adequate support been established to enable people experiencing child poverty to contribute effectively to the policy process? 

Language. Are you using language which is sensitive to the experiences of children and their families, respectful and progressive?

 

Further info and tools

Engaging Partners & Stakeholders

Further Information

Engaging Children

Engaging People Living in Poverty

National Standards and Tools

Further reading

RIGHT blether is the consultation with children and young people by Scotland's Youth Commissioner. It was the biggest consultation ever in Scotland, and 74,000 children and young people voted to say what they think we should work on to make all children and young people's lives better in Scotland.

The results to the consultation are here; there are both national results and an individual report for each local authority in Scotland.