Guest blog: Coffee, Cake & Compact

cakeThis latest guest bIog is from James Hadman, who is Voice Development Manager at Catalyst, the local voluntary sector infrastructure organisation in Stockton-on-Tees.

Here he discusses the challenges and successes of getting their local Compact 'off the shelf' and raising awareness of it locally.

I came into post in my new role as Voice Development Officer for Catalyst in April 2012.

Along with ensuring that the voluntary and community sector in Stockton had the right level of support, and mechanisms to have their voice heard effectively on issues that they were passionate about, I was also tasked with taking the lead on the ‘Getting the Compact off the shelf’ campaign.

I must confess that in my previous role, I had only a basic awareness of the existence of a Local Compact. However, it was not until I started work on the campaign that I realised how many of my colleagues in the voluntary and community sector were the same!

Initially I pulled together a meeting of the various signatories of the Compact, from both the public sector and the voluntary and community sector (VCS). However, this meeting proved difficult for a number of reasons.

The document itself was very comprehensive, but any thoughts around refreshing it were put on the back burner due to a Local Strategic Partnership review being carried out by the Local Authority, and the ever-changing landscape around Clinical Commissioning and Police and Crime Commissioning taking precedence. It was also agreed that it would be impossible to change the document and get agreement on it if people did not know what it was and how to use it.

As an alternative, we decided to focus on raising awareness of the Compact in both the public and  the voluntary and community sector, and trying to encourage organisations to be more aware of it in their discussions and dealings with each other.

As a starting point, we designed a very basic questionnaire around organisations’ awareness levels of the Compact, which reiterated my initial thoughts. Practically half of the respondents had no understanding of the Compact whatsoever.

The survey was followed up with a Coffee, Cake and Compact event, supported by Cath from Compact Voice, whereby local organisations were invited to come in, have an informal chat about the Compact and relevance to their organisation, and more importantly chomp on some cake!

The cake must have worked as we had 14 organisations represented at the event and had a good debate about the Compact. In addition, it outlined what it meant to organisations, particularly some of the smaller grassroots groups who are not dealing in contracts. The event was very positive and it was great to see the people there suddenly realise how beneficial the Compact could be  to their organisation and how it could be used. More importantly they wanted to learn more and to get involved.

We are now following this up with a Compact Training workshop (again supported by Compact Voice) and intend to explore how we can make best use of Compact Champions to spread the word and get the Compact used and embedded into all mainstream structures.

We then hope that when our local Compact is refreshed next year, we will have a list of organisations who can make valuable contributions to the refresh, and in future our local Compact will not be sat on a shelf gathering dust, but will be at the forefront of local organisations’ thoughts…

- James Hadman, Voice Development Manager, Catalyst Stockton

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