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Fair Food Transformation Fund: independent review

Fair Food Transformation Fund (FFTF) was set up to support initiatives aimed at reducing food poverty and reliance on emergency food aid.

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6 Implications for the Scottish Government and the Fair Food Transformation Fund

This chapter draws out the implications and recommendations based on this research.

6.1 The FFTF projects are providing an effective, value for money response to food insecurity

Most of the 19 of the FFTF case study projects appeared to be providing highly valued services for their local communities and demonstrated various models of addressing food insecurity in a more dignified way. Key ways that they were achieving both of these were:

  • Their use of community engagement interventions to address food insecurity.
  • Blurring the lines between those being “helped” and those “helping” to create a service where everyone benefits, and everyone has something to offer.
  • Flexibility in service provision to enable participants to test the water where they were uncertain, and to choose how and when they engaged with various parts of their projects. This flexibility also meant that projects were able to provide for a wide variety of participants with a wide variety of needs.

These projects were delivering a range of services, often for a large number of participants, with a small budget. They appeared to represent value for money as they were seeking to improve their sustainability through:

  • creating an environment where participants want to reinvest in their community
  • increasing their income through identifying ways to generate income from the project’s activities
  • reducing the cost of service delivery through growing their own food and forming partnerships with food donors

6.2 We recommend the following considerations and requirements are part any future funding round

In order to help more food banks make use of the FFTF and make progress similar to the current FFTF projects, we recommend that:

  • best practice and lessons learned from the current FFTF projects are promoted to prospective applicants
  • data collection should focus on key data needed to demonstrate progress against outcomes in a way that minimises administrative burdens on staff and minimises any risk of participant disengagement
  • support to develop appropriate governance arrangements is targeted to organisations’ needs as many organisations already have formal structures that appear to be working overall
  • realistic timeframes are set for delivery and achieving outcomes

Each of these issues is discussed in more detail below.

6.2.1 Promotion of success and what works is key to motivating change

There are some important lessons that can be learnt from the current FFTF projects:

  • What more dignified services look like – often projects are willing to change, but do not know how best to do this. The examples in this review act reflect effective practice and, furthermore, provide a guide for future services.
  • How to modify service design while facing resource pressures and service demand. Services may struggle to know how best to invest their time and resources to modify their practice. Sharing lessons can give examples of how to do this.

The Scottish Government has a role to play in raising awareness among other emergency food providers about what works, and how to invest in change when time and resources are already stretched with ongoing service delivery.

We would recommend that all prospective applicants have access to case studies and information on what has worked well for FFTF recipients. This could include a visit to other projects to gain inspiration and insight.

6.2.2 Requirements around data collection

The FFTF projects studied have largely collected data on attendance numbers, outputs and staff observations to gain insight into the profile of participants and the impacts the project is achieving. This approach provided projects with insights into the nature and extent of their impact and was used to drive service improvements. Projects settled on this approach due to:

  • limitations in resources available for detailed data collection
  • concern that more intrusive data collection methods undermine the one-community environment they have created

We consider this approach to be appropriate and recommend that future FFTF funding encourages projects to structure their data collection around two approaches:

  • Using a combination of data collected (e.g. on number of participants) and staff observations to ensure that data collection is proportionate (in terms of the resource required) and non-intrusive.
  • Developing an outcomes framework or Theory of Change[22] that is suitable for their service and outcomes. For example, the Barn uses the Getting It Right For Every Child (GIRFEC) outcome framework to structure staff reflections on whether they are achieving their desired outcomes. This would ensure that staff reflections are robustly structured around the project’s objectives and align with the Scottish Government’s focus.

It is important for projects to collect the following data for reporting purposes and internal use in service delivery:

(1) at application stage -

  • outcomes that projects want to achieve – within a relevant framework or Theory of Change
  • outputs and activities – linked to the outcomes
  • estimated participant numbers and profile

As outlined above, many projects were able to reach their desired groups without explicitly targeting them. A project can, for example, advertise a community meal as being open to all but understand that the attendees will still largely be from groups in need.

(2) for ongoing collection and reporting –

  • core statistics on activities delivered and participant number and profile
  • impact – as measured against their chosen Theory of Change framework

This information is likely to be gathered through a combination of staff observations and information from participants.

6.2.3 Requirements around project governance

On the whole, projects were part of an organisation with a clear governance structure. However, it is considered that there will be a subgroup of current and future fund recipients who will need support to build their governance capacity.

In recognition of the need to support organisations with project management and governance, the Scottish Government sought to provide support to projects by way of a mentor within the FFTF staff team. We understand that FFTF staff provided support to a range of projects. Several projects explicitly reported that they found their Scottish Government contact responsive and clear. We also understand that, due to resourcing issues, the support available was less intensive than originally envisaged by the Scottish Government and a number of the projects.

We recommend that at application stage, information on the governance structure that will support the project is sought from applying projects. This information can be used to identify projects at risk of failure due to governance capacity and infrastructure. For those projects, we consider there to be value in offering projects a mentor who is able to:

  • Provide an ongoing listening ear and advice around various issues or concerns project staff want to discuss
  • Improve projects’ understanding around what governance is and how to identify the appropriate governance arrangements for their project.

It is important that this mentor role is not seen to be combined with the role of the funder. Projects are less likely to raise potential issues and risks if they fear repercussions from funders – such as claw back. Therefore, the Scottish Government should consider whether it is best placed to provide this support directly. There are a number of third sector and community mentoring services that could be drawn on to provide support to projects in need.

To support this mentoring role, we recommend that the Scottish Government draw from available guidance on identifying and implementing appropriate governance arrangements. Guidance on governance is available from the Scottish Charity Regulator,[23] and the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations.[24]

6.2.4 Requirements around lead in time for projects

Funders must give careful consideration to environments that they create to allow small and new community efforts to thrive. Core to this is the lead-in time allowed as part of the funding agreement. Newer services, those who are not part of an organisation or brand, need time to build awareness, develop their reputation, and undertake the practical challenge of setting up a service.

Many of the 33 FFTF projects did not meet their originally planned delivery timeframes due to the aforementioned issues associated with new services. New projects had, for example, to build commercial-sized kitchens. Without attention being given to these problems, funders risk helping only established organisations and prohibiting the growth of bottom-up community development funds.

Many projects reported challenges in getting their project up and running. They also reported that it took time for the project to grow in participant numbers and start achieving outcomes. This is particularly true for new or smaller organisations. This was driven by:

  • A need to build awareness and trust in the community
  • The practical elements associated with setting up a new service – for example, building a suitable kitchen and hiring staff. Projects that need to hire staff need time to adequately define the role needed, advertise, recruit and have the person available. Projects that need to acquire, rent or adapt physical spaces will need time to arrange this.

The timeframes set in the FFTF for project delivery and the delivery of results proved to be too short for most projects. We recommend that this be lengthened and some flexibility provided to projects to discuss realistic timeframes given the specifics of their programmes. We consider it reasonable to provide 6 months between the awarding of the funding and the time the service is expected to begin, and a further 6 months before they need to be achieving their promised outcomes. This may mean providing funding for a two year project, rather than single year funding blocks.

6.3 Contribution to reducing poverty and reliance on emergency food provision

The innovations undertaken by the projects are applicable to areas of poverty beyond food inequality. The success that projects had in creating and utilising community as a way to meaningfully engage participants in services that they had previously been hesitant to attend can provide lessons for: services in employability, social housing and homelessness, criminal justice, health issues such as mental health and addictions and financial literacy.

For services who struggle to make meaningful and positive engagement with communities, the lessons provided by the FFTF projects will be of interest to those designing such services. Employability services, for example, are commissioned using the Employability Skills Pipeline. This is a five stage pipeline that helps commissioners ensure that they have services that support all elements of an individual’s journey to employment. Pertinently, Stage 1 of the Employability Skills Pipeline relates to the identification and engagement of job seekers and those who are economically inactive. The success the FFTF projects had with community engagement could consequently act as a guide for commissioners who are seeking to innovate their Stage 1 provision.

Contact

Email: Catriona Rooke

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