Working in Partnership with the GLA

_ The FSI _

Over the last six months the FSI have been working in partnership with the Greater London Authority (GLA) to help small charities who have been especially impacted by Covid-19. But, as this has now drawn to an end, we reflected on the partnerships that had been a part of the Civil Society Roots Incubator Programme.

Ali Collins, our lead FSI staff member on this project, discussed some of the learning she took away from the experience.

The GLA commissioned the FSI to support some twenty-two partnerships who came together during Covid to really address the needs of their communities across London during this time. The GLA were very keen to help strengthen those collaborations and partnerships to provide them with some capacity-building support so that they would be able to continue the different projects they started during the pandemic.

The GLA provided funding for these organisations so that they could move forwards with their projects, but we also wanted to address development needs within the different partnerships. Each of us had a role to play in addressing this. Here at the FSI, we provided training and some consultancy support, while the GLA were providing opportunities for the participating organisations by arranging meetings with potential funders. We ran this programme together, providing a much greater impact than we could have achieved working alone, based on the priorities that the GLA had for their overall support to charities across London, but also based on what they organisations were telling us that they needed.

The Organisational Strengths reviews that were offered to lead partners and potentially one or two others that they were working with allowed us to see the areas that would need strengthening for each participant. We then developed a programme of training to help them in these various areas including topics on Good Governance, Strategic Planning, Fundraising and Impact Management as part of a range of training topics that were offered to them. This meant we could help as many people from the participating partnerships as possible one of the partnerships sent nine different people to different workshops, this was especially encouraging as it meant they could share knowledge amongst all the participating organisations, by equipping different people with learning in different topics.

The partnership has been a learning curve, and as with everything, we faced slight setbacks on the way, the main one being that as some of the organisations were so small that they did not have the capacity to attend as many of these sessions as they would like.

We also looked to support each partnership at a more specific and bespoke level. Working one-to-one with a partnership during the consultancy time was one of the most valuable areas for many of the partnerships. It allowed them to focus on a particular project such as creating Partnership Agreements or Memorandums of Understanding to assist with the split of delivery. We also worked with some partnerships who were looking to create a joint Impact Measurement Framework to ensure that the impact information they are gathering would all be the same.

This meant feeding back to the GLA would be easier, and also going forwards feeding back to other potential funders in the future and showcase the impact that they have together.

Although most of the delivery was done online, we were able to deliver some face to face!

We used a variety of different training lengths so that we could support as many participating partnerships who might be limited by capacity as possible. We used a mixture of full-day workshops with materials and shorter sessions over a longer period of time to ensure that by the end of the process they had something that would strengthen them as they went forwards.

The key learning that we took away from this experience was that the really important thing when working with any partnership (whether it was that fast working with the GLA to provide this kind of programme or whether it’s the partnerships working with each other) is that you need to set expectations from the start. It’s vital in the early days of a partnership to outline who is doing what and have honest conversations.

Ultimately, the goal of any partnership is to help people and build stronger communities. Every organisation brings particular strengths to a partnership and it’s important to be aware of what they are and to actually use those when it comes to delivering the project.