July 25, 2018
National response required
It is an irony that just as communities are being challenged to take on more responsibilities than ever before, the resources that were historically allocated to the task of supporting these communities have been virtually wiped out by the cuts. In England a programme of recruiting and training 6,500 community organisers began in 2011. Seven years on, it’s about to be expanded – another 3,500 by 2020. While we don’t need to follow the same path, surely some kind of national strategic response to the new challenges confronting our communities is required.
The Community Organisers Expansion Programme – a national program to recruit and train 3,500 Community Organisers across England by March 2020. This program is an expansion of the Community Organiser Programme that ran between 2011 and 2015 that mobilised 6500 Community Organisers to inspire resident led social action in neighbourhoods across England.
The ultimate aim of the Programme is for residents to take action together in and across England’s most deprived neighbourhoods for social change – focused on the issues that matter most to them.
The Programme Theory of Change identifies 5 outcomes which we are seeking to move achieve:
1. A diverse range of social action & democratic engagement facilitated by people trained in organising.
2. General recognition of the value of community organising (underpinned by COLtd’s framework) and use of its principles.
3. A strong, active, inclusive, diverse, skilled, reflective, network of people trained in community organising, accountable to community organising values, their communities and the movement.
4. Sustainability of community organising models and of COLtd as the home for neighbourhood community organising
5. A progressive & high-quality CO training offer/package fully tested and widely available which incorporates practical skills, theoretical understanding & the action-reflection cycle.
Major Programme activities and outputs as agreed in the COEP Contract are:
· Training 3500 people, 2000 through Social Action Hubs and 1500 through national and local partners
· Employing Member Organisers to facilitate networking and recruit members
· Supporting 20 Social Action Hubs to roll out training and embed community organising
· Developing a curriculum of training from Introductory training through to Certificate or even Diploma level training
· Growing the skills of experienced community organisers as trainers, mentors and assessors
Timeline of the Year
The COEP got going at a breakneck pace!
· The Programme was procured by the Office for Civil Society (part of DCMS) in late 2016 when COLtd was appointed as the lead delivery partner but not officially launched at the beginning of March 2017.
· A Learning Partner (Imagine) was immediately appointed and a draft Programme Theory of Change developed.
· The delayed start led to pressure for very rapid recruitment of the first round of 10 Social Action Hubs and the 10 Member Organisers.
· The Social Action Hub opportunity was publicised over just 2 weeks in March 2017. Social Action Hubs were defined as locally rooted organisations supported by an Experienced Community Organiser. ‘Through training local leaders and volunteers at a neighbourhood level they will strengthen the networks of community organisers and be catalysts for resident led social action.’
· 10 Social Action Hubs were selected, and Grant Agreements issued by early April 2017 with first Quarterly Grant payments made towards the third week of April. The Induction Day for Social Action Hubs took place on 2nd May 2017. This was immediately followed by a 2 day training for the Experienced Community Organisers working with each SAH: ‘Preparing to Train Community Organisers’ – an introduction to the initial One Day Introduction to Community Organising course which would be the first training offered by SAHs in their local areas as part of the COEP.
· At the same time recruitment for the 10 Member Support Organisers was also under way. The MSO role was intended to ‘bring Community Organisers together from across neighbourhoods and support them to take collective action around their aspirations for the future of their communities’. The MSO role was advertised from early March and applications closed on March 17th and appointments were made by end of March 2017 with first grant payments made mid-April. Induction took place in May with a training session on Peer Networking led by Shared Assets. Monthly online training sessions continued from this point.
· 10 further Social Action Hubs were recruited and appointed in June 2017 and induction took place in the second week of July.
· Monthly action learning sets for Social Action Hub leads began and continued through the year.
· 5 strategic partners were signed up within the first three months – NCS Trust, Local Trust, Neighbourhood & Homewatch Network, VSO Overseas and Step up to Serve.
· In June we ran our yearly conference – CO17, attended by 100 members and friends of COLtd.
· In May the first one day course in community organising was accredited by Certa and the first training under the COEP took place in May in Croydon – a public Introduction to Community Organising course attended by 28 people.
· Training by Social Action Hubs really got under way in Quarter 2 with 127 people attending Introduction to Community Organising courses between July and September 2017.
· In June the Award and Certificate in Community Organising were formally accepted as Qualifications on the RQF Framework.
· In August the new Programme Manager for the COEP started work having been recruited in June but unable to start sooner.
· In September ECOs met to start planning the delivery of the Qualification in community Organising. They met again in November to design one day follow-up courses in listening, action and power.
· In September we also developed and launched the Community Organising Framework which now underpins all of our training and teaching of Community Organising.
· In Quarter 3, 265 people attended Introduction to Community Organising courses between July and September 2017.
· In October we launched our Communications Toolkit , designed to support SAHs and members to gain more media coverage for their work .
· In November we held a review session with our Member Organisers
· In December we ran a three day ‘Preparing to Training Community Organisers’ training course for 19 members of COLtd – some based at Social Action Hubs and some independent or employed as COs elsewhere – to grow our network of quality assured trainers.
· We also launched a Grant fund for SAHs to run targeted community organising training for young people. 9 SAHs were offered Grants to run training and provide support to young people aged 16-19.
· We also welcomed the Director for Social Action at OCS to Pembroke House on Local Charities Day and used this as an opportunity to promote the network of Social Action Hubs.
· In February we piloted some bespoke training with young people who are part of an NCS Graduate Board in planning social action and developing teamwork.
· In Quarter 4, 822 people attended Introduction to Community Organising courses between July and September 2017, including 137 young people and 150 people attending courses through local and national partners such as Community Links, Octopus, St Ethelberga’s and the Co-op Group.
· We also held a residential for public sector workers which was attended by 18 people from 12 institutions, mostly Councils.
· In Quarter 4, our Lead for Internal Quality Assurance undertook training observations of 90% of our ECOs at Social Action Hubs as part of our commitment to quality assurance.
· We completed and piloted the new course, Listening Skills for Community Organising and this was accredited by Certa.
· A number of variations of the accredited Introduction to CO courses were approved by our Lead for Internal Quality Assurance.
· To complete the year we held a reflection event for all of the key partners in the Programme – Social Action Hubs, ECOs and Member Organisers to capture learning, share stories and review the Programme Theory of Change. This fed into the renegotiation of Grant Agreements for Social Action Hubs and a new approach to the member organiser agreements, which were changed from Grants to Contracts. 12 MO contracts were let for 2018-19.
· By the end of the year we had trained 1242 individuals on one day courses and we had grown our membership to 424 members.