Section C – Learning And Reflections
1. TSI views on Scottish Government support and improvements to the Fund
What we asked
Partnerships were asked to share any learning points and suggestions for how we could improve implementation and supports of the fund.
- A very common response was that clear, early messaging on what monitoring will be requested throughout the year should be given at the outset, to make the job as easy as possible for TSIs. This included a suggestion for a high level overview of the year-long monitoring plan.
- Some TSIs requested a balance between space for innovation with the provision of more detailed guidance and templates that could be used for planning and administration processes.In terms of support for TSIs, some TSIs noted a desire for one-to-one time. It would be good to understand the nature of the support required. While we operate an open door policy, this may need to be communicated more clearly, and Scottish Government should be as proactive as possible.
- There is a common demand for earlier information on our approach to evaluation and monitoring requirements, with many also noting the compressed timing of Year 1 monitoring requirements.
- A concern was noted around larger national organisations applying for the Fund across different areas of the country, without involvement in localised partnership working. Related to this, it was noted that the national Fund guidance could lead to ambiguity and create potential for tensions and disagreements, for example, “larger organisations could query why some TSIs will fund their activities and others will not”.
- Branding to go alongside any poster campaign would be helpful to ensure there is a unified “look” to the fund when promoting it locally to ensure that there is recognition that this is a national fund throughout Scotland.
Whilst I appreciate space to innovate, I do feel clearer parameters and guidelines would have been beneficial for creating the likes of the local plans.
It would help to have the reporting criteria up front so we can ensure that we are tracking this or including it in a way that is more prominent in the assessment process – otherwise it can take days to collate retrospectively. Other than that I think the fund generally has worked well and the Scottish Government have been really supportive.
The relationship that has been built up directly with the Scottish Government through nation-wide TSI meetings and the Network has been invaluable, in particular the flexibility of the Scottish Government and the ability to feed in learning and thoughts right through the process.
2. Views of funded organisations on applying to the Fund
What we asked
We asked if TSIs had gathered views of organisations applying to the Fund, and to provide a summary of the feedback you have received from them.
- Several TSIs had not yet finished compiling project feedback.
- Of TSIs that had, feedback was overall very positive.
- Themes included the light touch approach bringing simplicity and accessibility to the Fund, TSI support being invaluable, and understanding from projects that time pressures were out of TSI control.
- Constructive feedback included querying the limitations of the Fund, such as eligibility of counselling, and time limits potentially bringing a bias towards pre-established groups.
- Example feedback:
(To TSI) “We are so excited about the funding and the project we are now working on thanks to it. Thank you so much, the Community Mental Health and Wellbeing funders, as well as Scottish Government, for this opportunity to help make our community a better, healthier place. We are sincerely honoured to have been part of the selected.”
(To TSI) “We both cannot thank you enough for your help, guidance and support with the application process for the Wellbeing Fund and all other charity matters, nothing is ever, any bother to you, and even the hardest and most complicated challenges you calmly resolve, which can’t be easy at times. We are genuinely overwhelmed by the grant award, and know this will make such a difference.
They also felt that the timescales and time of year were not conducive to good project development. Many small Third Sector Organisations do not have project ideas ‘on the shelf’ and need time to work up the proposal. We will create opportunities to do that in the next round.
3. Conclusions and Reflections
The Fund seems to have enabled existing partnerships to mature and has provided a platform for the development of new connections and meeting points across people and organisations. The longer lead in time to year 2 should mean that the majority of challenges reported (time and omicron) will be less of a factor, especially given that the partnership work undertaken this year will provide a solid platform moving forward.
There are very strong results for self-assessed effectiveness in partnership working, and time was the main barrier. TSIs should be encouraged to diversify their number and range of partners for year two where appropriate. Lived experience could possibly be identified as a necessity in local partnerships in year two, for example presence on decision making panels and in planning. However, it is noted that some TSIs may need bespoke help (for example, if partnerships with their Integrated Joint Board are not possible). Smaller TSIs should be encouraged to use existing structures in their area.
Fund management arrangements:
Positive feedback was provided by TSIs on the effectiveness of their fund management arrangements. It was positive to hear some of this was based on applicant feedback and this type of feedback could be built into monitoring and evaluation approaches going forward.
Additional capacity building grant and support provided to applicants:
The additional administrative – or capacity building – grant has been a very welcome, valued and, for some, a very necessary element in taking forward the Communities Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund locally. Not only enabling Third Sector Interfaces to increase capacity to meet the demand, but additionally extending support and assistance to community groups and organisations applying for support. As one said, “without this Grant, it would frankly have been a near-impossible ask.” In some TSIs, innovative approaches have been adopted as a consequence of the additional grant, providing opportunities for future learning and development.
In terms of providing support to applicants, it is clear that a wealth of work has been undertaken with TSIs providing a wide and comprehensive range of support, guidance and assistance to applicants to the Fund – particularly those applicants with less experience of applying and those in more vulnerable groups.
It is also apparent that a number of projects have used the Fund to leverage match funding to support their work which secures additional value and progresses partnership working locally.
Reaching target groups:
Many partnerships have put a good deal of thought into supporting target and minority groups beyond the more obvious actions around the accessibility of funding forms and naming particular groups in fund criteria. It is heartening to see the range of actions being taken to ensure such groups are included in the Fund and this bodes well for year two of the scheme, particularly as partnerships will have more time to develop this work. Given this, it would be reasonable to expect some more systematic improvement on the approaches taken to equalities practice in year two. Much could be gained from drawing out particularly good ideas and sharing these with the wider Network, as well as providing examples of practice in the fund guidance for year two.
Involving those with lived experience:
The majority of local partnerships – over two thirds – have found ways to embrace the involvement and inclusion of people with lived experience in the planning and implementation of the Fund. In regions that reported a high level of collaboration and involvement with people with a lived experience in the planning and delivery of the Fund locally there was an infrastructure of organisations or groups supporting the voices of lived experience and an established relationship between those organisations and groups and the Third Sector Interface (TSI) and partnership.
Several partnerships indicated that the short and challenging timescale of this year’s Fund had been a factor limiting their ability to involve people with lived experience involved in the process or had resulted in low levels or no input. The highly innovative approach adopted in some regions towards co-production and engaging with lived experience could provide a valuable resource for future learning and development. We will look to share particular examples of this and the learning from it.
Given the early stage in the Fund roll-out locally, examples returned by local partnerships are necessarily limited at this point. However, responses so far point to an encouraging level of engagement with lived experience in the initiatives being supported - either as user-led initiatives, employing lived experience to provide peer support or in adopting co-production in the planning and delivery of the project.
Support for TSIs:
The performance of TSIs has been positive, especially in light of timescales. There is inevitably variation in the experience of different TSIs. This will be supported through ongoing sharing best practice through the network such as on application processes, involving people with lived experience and the potential development of common branding and promotional/ engagement materials for the Fund in year two. Some TSIs have indicated more 1-1 support would be helpful and the Communities team will look to support TSIs where needed.
Reach Of Projects
Types of projects:
The rich diversity of ideas and approaches being supported is impressive, as is the way in which many of these have sprung up from within communities themselves, often initiated by those without professional experience, or at least propelled forward continuously by volunteers and those giving up their time freely. As such, it does not feel like this Fund is being used up to support statutory or existing services or particular institutional interests.
Focus on Fund priorities – target groups and priority themes:
- It is also clear that some excellent projects, in keeping with the aims of the Fund, are being funded. It was positive to see so many projects focused on prevention. The highlight of the report is seeing where the work and money are being directed, and the variety and quality of projects coming forward. The mental health and wellbeing outcomes of a few example projects were less clear, though end of year reporting and evaluation work can gather more detail on this.
- Data shows that applications have been received from a range of target groups but this varies, with refugee and LGBTQ+ communities particularly low. The level of lived experience inclusion is impressive in some places but inconsistent. A longer lead in time would allow for a more robust approach to equalities considerations. Therefore ongoing work is required to ensure accessibility of the Fund, which will be helped by the timing of Year 2 allocations.
- Some consideration could be given to the inclusion and clarity of guidance around national organisations with some concerns they have advantages over local organisations in application terms. However, substantial support has been provided to smaller organisations which balances these concerns.
Learning - Successes
- The Projects: All the scaffolding and support around the Fund is to get projects going on the ground, and on review, an amazing range of projects across the country has emerged. 1842 projects have been funded, and many key target areas are being covered. While evaluation is needed once projects have been running for a long period, initial signs are very promising.
- Key policy themes emerging: A key goal of the Fund is to gain real time evidence of what works in prevention policy on the ground. While we need long term analysis, it is interesting to see key themes emerge among projects, despite the aforementioned variation. This includes building community and personal links, often in a light touch way such as facilitating discussion and providing space. The fact that some of the solutions are consistent and simple is encouraging for producing more national prevention policy. Focus on activity (such as outdoor time, sports and arts) as a tool to bring people together is also telling.
- Supporting applicants: An impressive amount of proactive work has been seen by TSIs in ensuring that those who may not usually apply for funding could apply. The fact that evidence has been given of success in helping smaller and un-constituted groups to use the fund shows that early proactive effort can lead to good results.
- Sustainable infrastructure being built: The Fund has been a platform in some areas for fostering new partnerships and community networks. These networks can be fruitful in the long term, and not tethered to Fund projects running. This is an excellent secondary outcome of the Fund.
Learning - Areas For Improvement
- Time and experience: Time was very commonly seen as a barrier to varied areas of the fund, such as proactive communication, lived experience involvement, and expanding partnerships. The increased run in time for Year 2 will naturally mean that some barriers to Year 1 success will be removed. Further, all the experience of the first year of the Fund, and a desire to improve, will give an excellent platform for Year 2
- Deeper monitoring:
TSIs requested earlier sighting of our evaluation content and processing of fund applications locally. This will be communicated in advance so that Year 2 requirements are clear from the outset.
Timing of reporting meant that reporting from projects themselves was limited. Further, for some target groups that applicants mentioned a focus on, light touch monitoring means it is unclear if the project did successfully reach a group such as the LGBTI community or refugees. This could risk tokenistic projects, and we are considering a way to ensure that projects that name target groups are reaching those groups in an impactful way.
- Lived Experience: Many TSIs have already begun thinking on improvement and meaningful engagement of lived experience is one area that can be improved.
- Bespoke support: Although we operated an open door policy, the Scottish Government should be more proactive in gaining one to one sessions with TSIs on their local work.
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