Trust looking to the future of Collaboration in the Sector
Attendees at the Trust's first major conference on Collaboration in October 2012.

Trust looking to the future of Collaboration in the Sector

16 April 2014

This week the Institute for Voluntary Action Research (IVAR) report into the future of collaboration support in the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) sector in Northern Ireland is available on our website. Trust Director of Operations, Nigel McKinney, talks through the plans to support collaboration.

How will Building Change Trust mark the launch of the IVAR research report? 

The most significant action the Trust has taken is that the Collaboration NI consortium have been invited to submit an operational plan to be considered by the Trust for the continuation of a collaboration support service for a further three year period, commencing on the 1st July. That new plan will be considered by the Trust Board at its May meeting.  

How does the relationship between CollaborationNI and Building Change Trust operate?

CollaborationNI is a consortium led by NICVA and including CO3 and Stellar Leadership. When it first became clear to the Trust that investing in collaboration support was demanded by the sector, the Trust publicly tendered for the delivery of a collaboration, mergers and partnership support programme.

The three partners have been working to develop and deliver the programme for just over three years. The consortium’s lead partner submits a detailed report on activity and developments to the Trust each quarter. The initiative has been very successful to date. 

How did the connection come about with the Institute for Voluntary Action Research?

IVAR is well respected in Great Britain in respect of their knowledge of collaboration and how it can best be done.

We were looking for a respected organisation from outside Northern Ireland with knowledge of collaboration in the VCSE sector and an understanding of our desire to consider the future needs of the sector. 

IVAR fitted the bill and immediately understood that we wanted to work collaboratively with the existing CollaborationNI consortium. 

What method has been used for this research?

The research has been thorough involving a survey, key stakeholder interviews, two focus groups and numerous facilitated discussions between the Trust and the CollaborationNI partners. 

Why is collaboration such an important theme in the work of Building Change Trust?

That’s a good question. The Trust Board isn’t comprised of people arrogant enough to think they know how voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations in Northern Ireland need to change.

Or, for that matter, that it is just a matter of using the Trust’s resources to support change in these areas.

It is unlikely that any one organisation has the ability to address all of a community needs or the different dimensions of even single needs. This indicates the need to at least consider if a relationship with others might be productive. 

What are the findings of this report?

There is an opportunity to build on the first three years of success of CollaborationNI by making some changes in light of ongoing developments both in the sector and in our governance arrangements here. 

What support will Building Change Trust be providing in light of the findings of this report?

A commissioning document has now been issued to the CollaborationNI consortium inviting them to develop and submit a new three year plan operational from 1st July 2014 for investment of up to £600,000 from the Trust. Additionally the Trust is also considering the future of the linked Collaboration Enabling Fund which has already made grants totalling approximately £350,000 to organisations implementing collaborative activity following receipt of support and advice from CollaborationNI. 

What is your budget for collaboration support? 

Over the lifetime of the Trust a total of £2 million will be expended on collaboration support in a combination of CollaborationNI, the Collaboration Enabling Fund and some smaller scale initiatives such as the cost of this research. 

In what ways can the VCSE work together?

VCSE organisations can collaborate in a whole host of ways, from the informal through to the formal and across a whole range of work activity from service delivery to campaigning. The number of organisations involved can vary hugely as well. 

How can collaboration help to encourage the sustainability of the sector? 

That’s a big question. By sustainability we mean the resilience of an organisation and its ability to deliver its mission and meet the needs of present beneficiaries without compromising the ability to identify, and meet, the needs of future beneficiaries.

Sustainability is not about individual organisations enduring forever. It’s about taking action to ensure we have a strong, vibrant, independent and relevant sector as we believe that such a sector can meet present and future needs of beneficiaries in ways that other sectors cannot.

Collaboration is one of the ways in which organisations can meet the needs of their beneficiaries and hence contribute to the sustainability of the sector as a whole. 

To read the report in full click here.