Expertise

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Economic Development

Driving economic growth is a priority for national and local government. We work closely with our clients to gain an understanding of the key drivers of change in their economy and develop a preferred strategy and priorities for action.

Our clients include local councils and local enterprise partnerships as well as national organisations such as the Local Government Association and the LEP Network.

We are currently helping clients to develop their growth strategies and delivery plans. We assist clients to develop detailed projects and programmes suitable for delivery through Enterprise Zones, City Deals, other UK government initiatives and the new European Union funding scheme.

See some of our projects.

Local Government

Local councils face unparalleled challenges making sense of a rapidly changing policy environment in the face of major cuts in resources.

Much of our work on areas such as economic development and health and social care is for councils or their partners. We also work at the heart of local authorities on assignments including governance reviews, partnership reviews, the development of new approaches to localism and place-based working.

We work with cabinets and management teams, with wider leadership teams and back bench members. We have first-hand experience of the opportunities available to councils, including City Deals and community budgets.

See some of our projects.

Poverty and Inequalities

We have a long track record of producing national advice on ways of tacking poverty and inequalities and of evaluating the impact of policies and programmes in this area. This means that we are well-placed to help councils, the NHS and other partners to work together to address local inequalities.

We have skills in planning and priority setting, supporting delivery, and performance review and evaluation. We can provide you with the necessary tools to develop and implement strong and effective programmes.

See some of our projects.

Health, Social Care and Health Equality

The challenges of organisational change, integration and user engagement are at the forefront of the minds of our clients in the NHS, local government and the charitable and voluntary sector.

In recent assignments we have supported integrated work on health and well-being, including the Ageing Well programme. Our work ranges from access to eye health to support for older people, from ensuring equitable care pathways to effective patient, staff and community engagement, and from support for health and wellbeing boards to the future of public health.

Our mix of skills includes: supporting needs assessments, analysis of the impact on equality of reconfigurations and redevelopments, designing and evaluating initiatives to address health inequalities, support with self-evaluation and designing and delivering action learning and peer review programmes. Our clients include Department of Health, individual NHS Trusts, Local Authorities, Health and Wellbeing Boards, national health charities and local voluntary sector partnerships and organisations.

See some of our projects.

Neighbourhoods and Community Empowerment

Devolving greater power to a neighbourhood level is a core strand of policy within national and local government. We have practical experience of community engagement and of injecting a citizen focus into the design and delivery of public services.

We provide continuing support for the National Association of Neighbourhood Management, which we launched. This strengthens our role in national policy making on this theme which, in turn, enhances our offer to our clients.

Our work, through the NANM , on the learning strand of the Big Local programme gives us first hand experience of this new initiative in 150 communities.

See some of our projects.

Skills and Employment

The future prosperity of every community across the country depends on the skills of their workforce. And in the current economic climate, improving employability support is a key priority. Skills and employment feature strongly in community budgets, City Deals, and LEP plans and strategies.

We can help clients prepare skills and employment action plans, underpinned by robust labour market analysis. We can evaluate skills and training programmes, support the integration of skills provision, and help develop mechanisms for securing greater employer engagement. We have supported the development of the skills and employment strands of City Deals and a community budget.

See some of our projects.

Libraries and Culture

Libraries have become a touchstone for public reaction to expenditure cuts. They have the potential to play a key role in a host of areas from support for older people to enhancing skills and training.

We have experience of working with existing and potential users to inform service re-design. We also have the expertise to develop and assess business cases for developments such as shared services and the introduction of alternative delivery and governance structures.

Our clients range from Arts Council England to individual councils. Our work on the library of the future equips us to support creative thinking about cultural services at a local level.

See some of our projects.

Housing and Regeneration

Meeting housing need is a pressing issue facing most UK communities, as is the challenge of overcoming market failure in the supply of sites for development.

Our mix of skills and expertise includes working withsenior civil servants to formulate and review national policy, local authority officials to plan and deliver major projects, registered providers to develop business strategies and implement projects, and analysis of market challenges in areas of both high and low demand.

We regularly work with the Homes and Communities Agency (the HCA), the Local Government Association, and the Department of Communities and Local Government (CLG).

See some of our projects.

We can

Develop Leadership and Organisational Capacity

In these challenging times the quality of managerial and political leadership across the public sector and in local partnerships is more important than ever.

We can design and deliver leadership development programmes. We can also evaluate the impact of such programmes.

We work with council cabinets and management teams, with wider leadership teams and with senior partners in the private and public sectors.

Learning by doing, peer activity, an understanding of group and organisational dynamics and reflective practice are at the heart of our approach to leadership and organisational development.

Evaluate Programmes and Support Self-Evaluation

Only by evaluating a programme or project is it possible to gauge its success. This means asking what works (or not), for whom, in what circumstances and why.

We ensure that clients get the most out of our evaluation support by working with them to identify the key questions and select the most appropriate methods. We also design evaluations to ensure they support learning and improvement, and we like to work with our clients to develop the evaluation capacity of staff.

Our expertise covers a wide range of qualitative and quantitative techniques, including theory of change approaches, case study research, national surveys, in-depth interviews, focus groups and participatory approaches such as interactive workshops and co-production of tools and methods. We also provide advice and support for self-evaluation and train and manage community and peer researchers. Our clients range from Government departments, national and local charities, voluntary sector organisations, local authorities and NHS Trusts.

Help Clients Prepare and Implement Strategies

An effective strategy must be owned by the organisation which produced it and link directly to the task of implementation and delivery.

In helping clients to prepare strategies we draw on our collaborative approach, our experience of supportive delivery, our content knowledge and our facilitative and analytical skills.

We can design a strategy process, facilitate elements of it, co-ordinate the overall process and provide drafting and analytical support.

Facilitate Events and Processes

Organisations require safe spaces to explore today’s challenges. They also need ways of handling complex decisions and strategies.

We have the design and facilitation skills to meet these requirements.

We use techniques such as strategic choice and open space to design and facilitate large strategy development and decision-making processes. We also use simulations and external challenge events.

We have the capacity to support the process of analysis, sense-making and the shaping or recommendations and conclusions. We will always ensure that the opportunities for individual and organisational learning are seized.

Use Evidence to Support Decision-Making

Robust evidence is key to effective decision-making. The challenge is to collect it and use it appropriately.

We can evaluate policies, programmes and projects, including major national programmes. We also lead leading and dissemination strands of evaluation projects to enable policy makers and practitioners to apply the findings. We facilitate the use of evidence for programme development, effective commissioning and strong decision-making. And we support organisational and cultural change around evidence-based decision-making through techniques such as staff engagement and communication, bespoke training, review of quality and performance measures, and leadership and peer support.

We support local and self-evaluation in the public, voluntary and community sectors through learning workshops, toolkits and guidance.

Design and Deliver Learning Programmes

The most effective organisations are those which develop the capacity to learn and adapt quickly to changing circumstances.

We support a variety of collaborative approaches to organisational and individual learning, including learning networks, action learning and peer reviews. We always use structured discussion formats to help participants move from diagnosis to action.

We are currently supporting learning processes in health, locality and neighbourhood working and social housing.

Influence and Shape Public Policy

Effective public policy is grounded in a sound understanding of the reality of policy-making and service delivery. It also requires knowledge of the governance institutions at a national and local level.

We have this first hand understanding and knowledge, combined with strategic understanding, facilitative, analytical and drafting skills.

We have worked with senior civil servants in the UK, Scottish and Welsh Governments. And we have good contacts in relevant think tanks, national representative bodies and academic institutions.

Produce Guides and Toolkits

Capturing and disseminating learning quickly is important in the current rapidly changing context.

Handbooks, guides, toolkits and web-based resources can play an important part in meeting this need. But if they are to do so, they must be based on a sophisticated understanding of practitioners’ requirements, a thorough knowledge of appropriate techniques and crisp design.

We understand these requirements and can develop tools that are practical and easy to use .

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