Testing, testing…

Feeding back the feedback we received from NAVCA members, testing our developing strategy for our capacity building programme.

Big thanks to NAVCA for hosting a workshop for us at their Chief Officer’s conference in Manchester last Thursday.

It was very useful to have the opportunity to explain the role of Access to a large group of CVSs. It was a very positive and constructive session.

We established that there was a clear need for Access’s work. Many in the room reporting that social investment hasn’t been something that has been relevant for many of the local charities and social enterprises they support, but that there was an opportunity for some of those organisations to consider developing their trading and may need investment to do so. We also saw a range of potential roles for CVSs here, including as providers of capacity building support as well as helping to run a fund.

The main part of the conversation was to test our emerging themes from our consultation on capacity building. I outlined the process we had been through so far and talked through the slide which Ed shared in his blog last week.

The group started by discussing whether we had identified the right key capacities which need to be developed for organisations to be able to trade more successfully and therefore consider taking on investment. Feedback was positive, and a number of missing areas were highlighted, including:

  • The importance of marketing, both in understanding the market for your services and then effectively selling them
  • Negotiation skills
  • Understanding the extent of culture shift which is required within organisations, and the full extent of the leadership and governance challenges which go along with that
  • Risk management processes, particularly in relation to how trustees are best brought along on the journey
  • Help with legal structures and the opportunities around partnerships
  • The need to pilot new ideas and how best to do that

We also discussed the methods of most effectively building capacity, and whether our emerging conclusions looked right. Broadly we seem to be on the right lines. The key feedback from the group was to stress the key role that local infrastructure could play in identifying organisations which are well placed to borrow, understanding the local context and the mix of funding opportunities for the sector, and in providing support.

The group also reflected on their experience of what works in terms of providing this sort of capacity building, and concluded that support needs to be delivered over a period of time and will draw on a number of element including peer support, particularly to help inspire, and tailored support.

The session confirmed my thinking that the sector’s infrastructure bodies have a key role to play in helping social investment benefit the parts of the sector which haven’t yet benefitted and I am looking forward to continuing the conversation with NAVCA and its members over the coming months.