01 May 2014

We’re very excited to be launching the second year of our partnership programme with Big Lottery Fund. Connecting Policy with Practice: People Powered Change is a programme that brings together Whitehall policymakers and frontline practitioners to understand better how policy ideas translate (or don’t) on the ground.

Readers of this blog may have noticed that we’ve been somewhat quiet lately. While all’s seemed calm on the surface, beneath it we’ve been working energetically to design the second year of our Connecting Policy with Practice programme.

If you have read this blog in the past you may be familiar with what we’ve been trying to achieve through the first year of the programme. In short the programme aims to get the people who make policy in Whitehall and the people who deliver services on the ground to work together and understand each other better. In case you’re coming across this programme for the first time, I’ve attempted to draw together some of the main lessons we’ve learned so far, and to indicate where we’re trying to take the programme in its second year.

How does the programme work?

At the heart of the programme is a 30-person cohort, drawn primarily from the Civil Service and from voluntary sector organisations working to deliver Big Lottery Fund investments. We’re interested in what can be learnt from this pioneering funding – of up to £570 million over five to ten years –  in projects that address the needs of some of the most vulnerable groups in society. The programme focuses specifically on two of these investments, which aim to support:

–          Young people not in education, employment or training (NEETs)

–          Adults with multiple and complex needs

Cohort members work together in pairs over the course of the year to develop a better understanding of how policy translates into practice. They undertake exchanges and visits to local services and Whitehall departments, and attend a series of events, workshops and roundtables facilitated by the Institute. They are exposed to the experience and expertise of stimulating organisations and individuals, and their findings are tested and refined by senior policy influencers.

What have we learnt so far?

The first year of the programme had three broad research themes: service design, funding andcollaboration. These themes allowed the cohort to do some great work in identifying and defining some of the problems in translating policy into practice. Our end-of-year report identified five such ‘disconnects’:

–          People’s lives are complicated. They need services and support that deal with the ‘whole person’…

…but too often, policy operates in silos.

–          Long term problems take time to fix…

…but chops and changes in policy and funding make this hard.

–          Services to prevent complex problems from escalating are, in principle, valuable and cost effective…

…but they are very hard to achieve in a constrained and siloed funding environment.

–          Policy often starts with good intentions…

…but these get lost as it is re-interpreted.

–          Understanding and involving service users can be used to great effect…

…but too often the policy discussion is about users as problems rather than as assets.

And as this blog has shown – through the contributions of our wonderful rapporteurs Pat Russell and Nick O’Shea – the programme has produced far more insight for the participants than these statements convey.

What will be different in year two?

In the first year of the programme we identified common problems. In year two we’re going to try to dig a little deeper – to understand the real drivers of these problem and move towards potential improvements.

To do this we’re narrowing down our focus from five disconnects to just two. We will be setting the second cohort two ‘exam questions’ to shape their work:

–       How can we move towards policy and services that operate on the principle that complex problems require ‘whole person’ solutions?

–       How could we more systematically make better use of the assets, experience and engagement of service users in the design and delivery of services?

How can I get involved?

If the programme sounds interesting to you and you want to find out more – as a potential cohort member or an interested observer – please contact joe.randall@instituteforgovernment.org.uk for more details. Applications close on 30 May 2014.