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Conference on #TheWayAhead will reveal funders' ideas for supporting London civil society

Next month the organisations who fund some 120,000 London voluntary organisations, social enterprises and community groups will reveal key ideas for supporting future action for social good.

At a conference on June 22 the London funders and their partners will invite discussion on - among many other things - plans for a resource hub and systems that provide information, advice and training to underpin their funding and the work of front-line groups and projects.

The conference will hear the conclusions of a research programme called The Way Ahead, undertaken with partners London Voluntary Service Council (LVSC) and Greater London Volunteering (GLV).

The conference announcement says:

Working together with Greater London Volunteering and LVSC we will be holding a highly participative event for all stakeholders to come together and move our vision forward. Over the course of the day you will: catch up on progress made across all sectors since the formation of the working groups in November; hear from stakeholders on what 'The Way Ahead' means for them; explore the opportunities and challenges for your organisation, area of interest or stakeholders; contribute to how recommendations are taken forward as practical action; and get involved in future activities.

The context is bleak: local council are cutting funding, demand for services is increasing, and traditional support systems like local Councils for Voluntary Service, together with LVSC, GLV and other London-wide networks are stretched and in some cases may close.

We shouldn't expect any detailed news on funding from the conference - but the recommendations on support systems are just as important when organisations and groups have to do more with less.

I've digested recommendations and background on The Way Ahead:

In recent months five working groups have filled out the initial Way Ahead recommendations to address the challenges of funding cuts and increased demand for services. They have looked at Pragmatic Co-production, Triage and Connect, Data Sharing, Voice and Campaigning, Consistent Commissioning and Funding - and will be reporting to the conference.

One of the key recommendations is for a resource hub:

A London Hub, working with specialist support, should develop standardized resources where possible, which can be customized and delivered locally. The London Hub could be made up of a network of organisations or be a formally constituted body.

LVSC and a consortium of Councils for Voluntary Service - that support local organisations - have each commissioned their own consultants to develop a response to the idea of the hub.

As I reported recently, LVSC have published the report by consultant Steve Wyler.

London needs a new organisation called Connecting Londoners, says a report on how to support action for social good - whether that's undertaken by charities, agencies, public bodies, companies, local groups or citizens.

Connecting Citizens would have four main functions: improving the system of support, gathering ‘real-time’ intelligence about London’s community life, promoting positive change, unleashing the resources of civil society – in all cases working with and through other agencies at local, borough, and London-wide levels.

I’ve been a member of three of the five Way Ahead groups, and I know the amount of work that has gone into their reports, and the wealth of good ideas in them. I hope the group reports will be published soon, so everyone has an opportunity to digest and comment before the conference.

It would also help if we had the CVS report, and ideas from The Way Ahead system change group who met recently to review the work of the groups.

The event is billed as a stakeholder conference, so it's not clear at this stage how wide the invitations will go. I'll check and update.

The previous public Way Ahead event last November produced recommendation for a major communication and engagement programme, but that never materialised.

Steve Wyler said in his report for LVSC:

While there has been some criticism of the Way Ahead report and process, the discussion now appears to be moving into a constructive phase. Stakeholders consulted have a good understanding of the main themes in the report and generally support them. There is widespread agreement that things need to change, to deliver better to Londoners and to civil society in London, and to promote the practice of co-production, and there are indications that some agencies are accepting the need to make changes in their own practice.

My sense is that the various agencies and funded organisations involved are now developing a strong set of ideas, but very few community groups or London citizens know anything about The Way Ahead. This stands in contrast to a key idea in The Way Ahead proposals for co-production:

Co-production is where Londoners work with those in power, and each other, in a way in which all voices are heard equally in developing a shared understanding of need and in crafting solutions to make London a better place.

Meanwhile, I will follow up shortly with some ideas from our work on Networked City that could be fed into the mix.