Capacity - thinking like people

By Chris Catterall, Chief Executive

I’ve spent the last ten years of my life working in Liverpool’s social sector. I’ve got my hands dirty, fundraised, tendered, spun out and spun in. Today as I look around, there are some immutable truths, unchanged over the decade.

Communities feel ‘stuck.’ They know that social care, health care, justice and education aren’t delivering what they need to, but individuals don’t know what they can do to help.

Charities are closing every day, living hand to mouth, barely collaborating or sharing. Yet they sit in a building next to others, trying to achieve the same outcome.

We have growing waiting lists for NHS mental health support, yet capacity in community organisations delivering the same services.

Individuals want to do something. They’ll pick up their neighbour’s shopping, run the local litter pick, but too often leave it to ‘the system’ to the take the next steps.

We have women leaving prisons in tents, yet vacant properties in Toxteth, Liverpool.

GPs treat people every day with social problems, not medical problems; unaware of the services available in communities to help them back on their feet.

We have grant funded small charities and community organisations changing lives; unglamorous, unrecognised. But grants have become contracts, and Commissioners feel more comfortable dealing with larger organisations and programmes. The smaller charity withers, and it’s the community that suffers.

The answer is under our noses

My community – and probably yours – already has answers to these problems.

It is not as easy to find money as it was, but the money exists. We have social investment, charitable money and public sector money swirling around social problems, yet no co-ordination between the three.

To move forward in any meaningful way, we need to remove this ‘stuckness’. We need communities and individuals to realise that they, working together, hold the key to better social outcomes.

Too often, policy makers demand grand, shiny programmes to solve social challenges. A big headline, a trending hashtag. Yet in my experience, very often it’s the small, organic ideas which are the most impactful. Those grand, shiny programmes simply end up wasting money.

Who says that the private sector holds the monopoly on innovation? Why can’t we create joint vehicles between the community and local authorities, vehicles with the commercial capability to deliver a service, but that also build the skill and expertise of the organisation as they grow?

Why can’t local authorities ditch their procurement processes, and instead become incubators, developing ideas with the organisations that know the problems best?

Statutory, third sector, public and private organisations have a moral impetus to come together and solve social problems. This week, backed by Big Society Capital, Catch22, Interserve, and Clubfinance, we’re launching Capacity, the Public Services Lab. It’s a new initiative to build the capacity of the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise sector in the Liverpool City Region.

At the heart of the Lab is an incubator and accelerator model, supporting local social sector organisations to take a more central role in the delivery of public services. I hope that by 2022, 50% of local voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations will be delivering public services, a 40% increase.

Someone cold, hungry, lonely or looking for a job doesn’t think about our sector in terms of siloes.

They don’t care about commissioning, about whether it’s a local PLC or charity with the answer.

By thinking like people, not professionals, by starting with what the community needs and designing backwards, we’ll be able to finally use what’s currently going to waste.

Contact us

We are eager to speak to people about new projects so please use the form below to start the conversation.

Public Services Lab
2nd Floor, Cunard building
Water Street, Liverpool
L3 1QB

Telephone: 0151 236 1664

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