LSIS Regional Response Fund project, 2012-13
WMCETT worked on the Changing the Dynamics project from November 2012 to July 2013 after winning funding from the LSIS Regional Response Fund.
In the 2011 Change Exchange Networks project and 2012 Changing Landscapes, WMCETT had successfully bid for grants from the RRF. The aim of the fund was to establish projects around the country which ‘allowed providers to deal collectively with the operational, funding and planning implications of the changes to funding mechanisms and allocations (resulting from current government policy)’.
The first two projects involved people from across the wider lifelong learning sector. Changing the Dynamics focused on FE colleges and the Third Sector.
The project had to match the aims of the RRF and relate to the themes of LSIS’s New Challenges, New Chances and LSIS Focused on Improvement documents.
This work was a partnership involving FE colleges and Third Sector support services and learning providers. It took a collaborative approach to developing improved professional relationships and partnerships across the sectors.
The project aimed to identify new models of engagement and examples of leadership and co-production to inform developing practice. Areas of exploration were community accountability, Third Sector strategic engagement in partnership with FE colleges to work towards co-production in the localities, and emerging models and innovative ways of working.
The aim for participating organisations was that the project would:
- increase awareness of shared interests, potentially-mutually beneficial opportunities and barriers.
- produce improved organisational relationships and a platform for future collaborative work
- through active dialogues create a methodology for tackling difficult conversations and achieving positive new working relationships.
Researchers carried out phone and face-to-face interviews with representatives of FE colleges and Third Sector infrastructure organisations in two counties and two urban areas in the West Midlands. They identified and explored existing levels of engagement, current practices and how they already collaborated in support of LSIS aims.
Information from the research was used to prepare the content and structure for discussion at a meeting between the individuals and researchers in each area, to create an active dialogue.
The key discussions were around what a good relationship between FE and the Third Sector looks like, what could be built on, what current concerns were and how the situation could be improved
Information from the meetings was turned into case studies, which were supplemented by follow-up interviews and written evaluation forms participants were asked to fill in a few weeks later.
A final session was then held at the University of Warwick on Thursday, June 27 2013 to bring together the participants from the four areas, to discuss all the case studies, and hold an ‘active dialogue’ session between all of them, looking at the general issues and learning points from the project.
A final report has been produced for LSIS, and WMCETT and our researchers, the Clever Elephant consultancy, have put together a larger final report which can be accessed here. It contains information about points that could be built on in further research.
The feedback from the project was positive, with participants finding the dialogues useful, the impartiality of WMCETT a help, and liking the fact they had identified common ground. Specific comments included:
‘Forum of the facilitated dialogue very useful experience’
‘Good to be able to focus on strategic approach rather than gets bogged down in detailed initiatives, projects and operational matter’
‘It has really opened my eyes to the restrictions Colleges have to face’
‘Academically and intellectually stimulating’
‘Project good, timely and useful.’ Changing the Dynamics - full report