Publication - Research publication

Children, Young People, Families, Early Intervention and Adult Learning and Empowering Communities Fund evaluation: baseline report

Published: 29 Sep 2016

This report is part of an evaluation which aims to assess whether the vision for the fund is achieved and to inform future decisions.

33 page PDF

597.5 kB

33 page PDF

597.5 kB

Children, Young People, Families, Early Intervention and Adult Learning and Empowering Communities Fund evaluation: baseline report
Partnership working

33 page PDF

597.5 kB

Partnership working

This section focuses on partnership working in the form of joint working between third sector organisations supported by the CYPFEI & ALEC Fund and other third sector organisations, their involvement in local groups and national structures, and their interaction with the Scottish Government including a specific focus on the Policy Officer assigned as part of the Fund. It presents baseline findings from the self-assessment survey plus a summary of relevant issues raised during consultations with the sample of funded organisations, Policy Officers and stakeholders.

Joint working with other third sector organisations

Although all aspects of joint working with other third sector organisations were rated positively, respondents were more positive about informal partnership working (rating it as 8.4 out of 10) than formal partnership working (7.2). Information sharing with other third sector organisations was rated at 8.0 out of 10.

On a scale of one to ten, please rate… Average rating
Your organisation's informal partnership working with other third sector organisations 8.4
The way your organisation shares information with other third sector organisations 8.0
Your organisation's formal partnership working with other third sector organisations 7.2
Overall 7.9

The majority of third sector survey respondents provided comments confirming their commitment to joint working and gave many examples of effective partnerships with other third sector organisations. This included consortium working, co-location and shared services, shared training, and joint campaigning and policy influencing. One funded organisation described how CYPFEI & ALEC funding is enhancing their partnership working by contributing to the cost of a Policy Officer, previously funded by the Third Sector Early Intervention Fund ( TSEIF), who had provided very useful information that enabled senior staff to contribute more constructively to discussions with larger third sector partners with longstanding policy teams. Another organisation stated that they are using the funding for a development post (also previously funded by the TSEIF) who was building relationships with third sector, and statutory, partners.

Some third sector organisations suggested that time pressures and capacity issues have had an impact on their joint working with other third sector organisations.

"Time limitations have restricted opportunities … for partnerships with [the] third sector". (Third sector funded organisation).

The financial environment has also led to some third sector organisations focusing efforts on partnerships with local authorities and other statutory services, at the expense of third sector partnerships.

"The nature of the support work has meant that priority …has been [on] forming strong partnerships with statutory sector agencies". (Third sector funded organisation).

Third sector survey respondents identified a number of challenges to partnership working including avoiding reputational risks and developing partnerships with organisations that were 'the right fit, at the right time'. There was also a sensitivity about sharing information with other third sector organisations, with increased competition for funding cited as exacerbating tensions or reluctance to share information.

"We have excellent relationships with other organisations, but still feel protective over some elements of our work. We often have to strike the balance between sharing our work or not … due to the sector becoming more competitive and vying for position". (Third sector funded organisation).

"As fewer funds become available this can result in organisations 'protecting their interests' which can in turn result in an unwillingness to work in partnership". (Third sector funded organisation).

"The funding will make a contribution to our ability to take part in forums and networks, though we have to be careful with information sharing". (Third sector funded organisation).

"There is enormous tensions within the sector, between organisations, because they are in an absolutely cut-throat, competitive environment. There are some very unpleasant dust-ups that go on between organisations". (Third sector funded organisation).

"It is a sad fact that we are in competition with each other, not just for funding but sometimes for families as well". (Third sector organisation).

The above views were shared by a consultee suggested that lateral links, or partnership working between and across organisations, are most at risk when organisations are under financial pressure and focus on core services and relationships with funders and commissioners. Another consultee welcomed the Fund's focus on partnership working but questioned its potential impact.

"Any improvement in collaborative working will be welcome - but it is perhaps not reasonable to expect this fund to have an impact on partnerships, certainly considering the small amounts of money". (Policy Officer).

During the consultations there was a consensus that partnership working between third sector organisations was generally to be welcomed with good relationships and collaboration where appropriate. However, there were contrasting views on attempts to promote partnership working depending on the consultee's perspective. Some stakeholders and Policy Officers were keen to promote partnership working to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of third sector organisations and to achieve value for money from grant funding. However, some funded organisations and third sector stakeholders noted that organisations were independent, had their own interests to protect and suggested there was an element of paternalism where partnership working was promoted by other parties.

Involvement in local groups and national structures

The CYPFEI & ALEC Fund is supporting national third sector organisations - defined as those working in four or more local authority areas - and this was reflected in survey respondents' rating their involvement in national structures more positively (7.7 out of 10) than their involvement in local groups (6.5).

On a scale of one to ten, please rate… Average rating
Your organisation's involvement in national structures 7.7
Your organisation's involvement in local groups 6.5
Overall 7.1

Numerous third sector funded organisations recognised the value of engagement with local and national groups, partnerships or forums and some noted how the Fund will enable them to continue or enhance their involvement.

"The funding also makes it easier for me to attend [relevant] networks". (Third sector funded organisation).

"The funding helps and motivates us to take in and contribute to third sector forums, which takes time but is seen as being worthwhile on an organisational and personal level". (Third sector funded organisation).

Third sector survey respondents raised a number of issues in their additional comments. Many identified capacity constraints, citing the time or resources required for extensive engagement, particularly at the local level.

"[We] have recently reduced attendance at meetings due to time pressures". (Third sector funded organisation).

"We spread ourselves thinly striving to attend all the relevant groups that we can but it is important that we continue to do so locally and nationally …in order to influence change". (Third sector funded organisation).

While some observed that the core funding can only help with engagement, several others commented that resource constraints meant they were prioritising national structures above local engagement, or had to be selective in their local engagement, taking account of local resources, project activity, need or conditions.

"Where we have reasonable levels of local resource we have more capacity to be represented on local groups, where we do not, we have to be more selective about how we spend our time and will prioritise direct work with young people over involvement in local groups". (Third sector funded organisation).

Many of the national-level organisations unsurprisingly felt that they lacked the reach and resources to engage in local groups, though many of their partners did participate. It was suggested that funding constraints on local authorities led them to seek greater engagement with the third sector and although the relationships were challenging at times, there was a sense that local authorities increasingly value the sector. It was suggested that the CYPFEI & ALEC Fund helps some third sector organisations to engage at this level. However, there were also suggestions that only the largest and well-resourced third sector organisations are able to engage at a local level (partly driven by a desire to enter local markets) and that some local public sector agencies have a preference for "the big brands". One stakeholder suggested that the Fund could be viewed as reinforcing the dominance of national third sector organisations and that support for smaller, local organisations is required, especially to take forward the Scottish Government's localism agenda.

Representatives of third sector organisations working across all areas of Scotland highlighted the importance of funding national infrastructure and how this enables them to provide support to local groups and projects. A small number of third sector survey respondents commented that they had found it difficult to access some national-level structures and their perception was that the same third sector organisations tend to be involved in such groups.

"You don't always know that something is happening to get involved, so you miss opportunities - especially for follow up things. The people already involved tend to stay involved and you don't hear about it". (Third sector funded organisation).

Interaction with the Scottish Government

Third sector survey respondents assessed their organisation's alignment with the Scottish Government's national outcomes particularly highly, rating it as 9.0 out of 10. The way organisations share information with Government and their ability to influence policy development were both rated at 7.8 out of 10, which was more positive than the dissemination of information and intelligence by Government (6.7).

On a scale of one to ten, please rate… Average rating
The extent to which your organisation's core services align with National Outcomes 9.0
The way your organisation shares information and intelligence with the Scottish Government / Education Scotland 7.8
Your organisation's ability to influence the development of Scottish Government policy 7.8
The way the Scottish Government / Education Scotland disseminates information and intelligence to your organisation 6.7
Overall 7.6

Third sector survey respondents tended to reaffirm their commitment to supporting national outcomes and gave many examples of the way their work supports young people, families and adult or community learners. Many third sector organisations also commented positively on their relationship with Scottish Government and their influence on policy.

"They (Scottish Government) are very open with us on work going forward. We are delighted … that some of our work and recommendations have helped influence policy". (Third sector funded organisation).

"We have excellent working relationships with many SG staff". (Third sector funded organisation).

Policy Officers also highlighted the interaction they have with third sector organisations aside from the direct links resulting from the CYPFEI & ALEC Policy Officer role. They noted that a number of funded organisations regularly interact with the Scottish Government, and other agencies, through membership of partnerships, groups, networks and fora. The Scottish Government also engages with the Coalition of Care and Support Providers Committee which includes a number of third sector organisations.

"They are involved in national and local groups; and we work closely with them through national stakeholder forums". (Policy Officer).

Policy Officers, funded organisations and the majority of stakeholders supported the requirement for grant holders to seek to contribute to the national outcomes. However, one stakeholder felt this was erroneous and unnecessarily burdensome given the amount of funding involved for funded organisations.

The majority of funded organisations and stakeholders with experience of working with Education Scotland were positive about their relationship with some commenting on the understanding Education Scotland staff tend to have of policy and service delivery issues. However, one consultee suggested that more broadly some Education Scotland staff are less in tune with the third sector than Scottish Government colleagues:

"The Scottish Government will defer to third sector knowledge when appropriate, however that is not the same with Education Scotland in our experience. They can make assumptions that they know best when they could learn so much from the sector, for example, around wellbeing and engagement". (Third sector organisation).

While respondents commented positively on their engagement with one or two main contacts in the Scottish Government or Education Scotland, some noted that it was can be difficult to identify officials dealing with other (linked) policy areas and a directory of contacts in Scottish Government/Education Scotland was suggested. It was also claimed that where potential contacts were identified it could still be difficult to engage them. A small number of comments were made regarding the turnover of Policy Officers which necessitates building new relationships, sometimes with Officers who are new to a policy area and have limited knowledge. One consultee suggested that some Scottish Government officials appear to regard funding for third sector organisations as providing some right or expectations over the funded organisations, although this was an isolated view.

Third sector organisations' own constraints were also noted as impacting on interaction with the Scottish Government.

"We have far more detailed information/statistics on what is happening 'on the ground' than we currently have the resources and opportunities to pass on". (Third sector funded organisation).

"We often get last minute requests to attend events or meetings. While we would like to take part we only have a small team and if diaries are full we cannot drop existing commitments". (Third sector funded organisation).

Some of the survey respondents' comments illustrated the lower rating given to dissemination of information by the Scottish Government and the ability to influence policy.

"We do find the flow of information in the opposite way can be patchy at times, depending on the policy area, the strength of relationships and the challenge to policy development that we are making". (Third sector funded organisation).

CYPFEI and ALEC Policy Officers

One of the defining features of the Fund is the identification of a named Policy Officer from either Scottish Government or Education Scotland. There are almost 50 Policy Officers who are the link person, generally for two or three funded organisations although the number varies. Funded organisations were assigned an Officer from the most relevant Scottish Government/Education Scotland team, where possible, and this has frequently involved an individual they have had previous contact with. Internal meetings to explain the role of Policy Officers were welcomed and seen as likely to lead to a consistent approach.

Many of the Policy Officers were involved in discussions regarding which applications were to be funded - this was viewed as a robust and constructive, if time-consuming, process. Policy Officers were also involved in subsequent discussions with some of the funded organisations to refine their outcomes where the grant award was less than requested - the Policy Officers appear to have provided valuable advice which ensured the outcomes were realistic and well defined. Some Policy Officers commented that the quality of the initial outcomes set by organisations varied and in some cases were not SMART [2] where they described activities rather than outcomes, for example. Moving forward the Policy Officers will review the quarterly and annual monitoring reports submitted by their funded organisations and this was generally viewed by Officers as a useful way of keeping updated on progress which should identify any issues, although one reserved judgement at this stage.

A significant part of the Policy Officer role will be to liaise with funded organisations, acting as a first point of contact. Both the Policy Officers and funded organisations were very positive about this aspect of the role, with both regarding it as potentially mutually beneficial. Policy Officers envisage informing their funded organisations about other relevant initiatives and providing up-to-date information on Scottish Government policy (which was seen as particularly important for organisations not previously funded, especially those with a UK-wide remit that may be less familiar with the Scottish context). Part of their role may also be to signpost their funded organisations to business planning support if a need is identified. By raising awareness of their funded organisations within the Scottish Government there is also a perception that the Policy Officers may lead indirectly to other opportunities for their funded organisations. For their part, funded organisations regard the Policy Officer as someone they can call on if they need information on Scottish Government policy or initiatives and as an advocate within the Scottish Government who will help to raise their profile.

"Our role is also to ensure that good practice is shared and built upon". (Policy Officer).

"I think it is going to be good. I see it as a collaborative relationship as opposed to them (Scottish Government) disciplining the organisation. It helps the Policy Officer to know what we are doing in the context of this funding and the relationships between that and some of the other work they are doing. It helps the Policy Officer to join some of the dots and it can be useful for us if we have questions or want to develop something further, we know where to go. It just seems to be quite a neat completing of the circle of the relationship between funder and funded work". (Third sector funded organisation).

"It takes time to build relationships, gain trust and respect. Once you have this it is much easier to advise them on things they could improve or change". (Policy Officer).

Recipients of predecessor funds - the Third Sector Early Intervention Fund ( TSEIF) and Strategic Funding Partnerships - had contact with the Scottish Government/ Education Scotland although this tended to relate to fund administration rather than policy issues, particularly with regard to the TSEIF. Consultees therefore welcomed the formalisation of a named policy contact as part of the CYPFEI & ALEC Fund which they felt strengthened links.

Some Policy Officers stated the support they envisage providing to their funded organisations will essentially be a continuation of their existing positive relationship with third sector organisations. These relationships have been established through contact from previous initiatives or funding.

"There is no real change in our relationship, we know each other well and they are able to pick up the phone to let us know things. We have done a lot of lot of work together". (Policy Officer).

"Some of us had a very similar role with many of the same organisations funded under the Strategic Funding Partnership". (Policy Officer).

In many cases Policy Officers tend to be the link person for more than one organisation working in the same field and this not only makes sense from a policy perspective but should also facilitate information sharing and joint working between the funded organisations. An example of this was noted with a Policy Officer planning to facilitate a session with their funded organisations to look at partnership working and sustainability.

It was noted that Policy Officers have been proactive in seeking to build relationships with new organisations, for example by accompanying Lloyds TSB Foundation for Scotland on visits or in setting up meetings directly. The Policy Officers welcomed Lloyds TSB Foundation for Scotland's administrative role in the Fund which allows them to dedicate their time to policy-related matters and focuses on their strengths. Policy Officers - and funded organisations - also commented positively on the extent and nature of communications with the Foundation to date. The planned events and learning and development programme to be delivered by the Foundation were welcomed by Policy Officers who suggested it could help third sector organisations address identified issues.

"We need to make sure the newer entrants are involved and have a voice, capacity building events should help with this". (Policy Officer).

Most stakeholders were also supportive of the learning and development programme and some suggested it could potentially be a significant element of the Fund where third sector organisations receive specialist support. However, one stakeholder questioned the learning and development programme's inclusion in the Fund suggesting that funding could have been included in the grant to allow third sector organisations to source their own support. There was also a view that the learning and development programme could further strengthen grant holders - already benefitting from financial support - at the expense of non-grant holders. One stakeholder suggested the Scottish Government publicise its own internal training sessions as part of the learning and development programme, as third sector organisations may benefit from some of the sessions and would welcome the opportunity to train alongside Scottish Government staff.

"The more that personal relationships are developed across sectors the more mutual value and respect will develop". (Stakeholder).


Email: Steven Fogg

Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road