Successful development opportunity grants about to go live!

We are proud to announce the results of the latest round of development opportunity grants 2021. The successful proposals are described below and we encourage members to get involved in the activities and contact those delivering the projects.

Susanne Martikke: Acknowledging complexity, learning from failure – Greater Manchester Third Sector Research Network event about evaluation and learning

Evaluation and learning is a dominant form of research in the voluntary sector (VCSE) and directly relates to practice and the relationship between organisations and funders. GMCVO worked with six members of the Greater Manchester Third Sector Research Network to develop a proposal for an event that aims to start a dialogue between researchers and practitioners about the potential of moving beyond presenting polished accounts of success stories towards a nuanced appreciation that every successful project contains elements of potential or real failure. While the current funding environment incentivises a focus on successes, there is reason to believe that real learning not only about what works but how it works will only be unlocked when more attention is paid to the complexity involved in voluntary sector delivery. Doing so may not only benefit VCSE delivery, but also the field of voluntary sector studies.

The full-day event, which is currently envisaged as a face-to-face event in spring 2022, will have a Greater Manchester focus and will bring together VCSE practitioners and researchers from frontline organisations and support organisations with funders and commissioners. It will aim to include both VCSE managers and frontline staff, as well as volunteers and people accessing VCSE services.

The event will combine open and entertaining presentations about learning from failure on the one hand and smaller working groups where experiences and approaches to integrating a learning culture into daily work can be discussed in a protected atmosphere. Providing a safe space will encourage participants to reflect about the problem-solving that is inherent in delivering projects in order to begin developing their own stories about “failure”.

Dr. Carol Jacklin- Jarvis and Dr. James Rees: Voluntary Sector Place Leadership: setting the agenda and sharing knowledge between practice and academia

We will use the VSSN Development opportunity grant to hold two exploratory knowledge exchange workshops on the topic of Place Leadership. Rather than following a conventional conference format with separate presentations, these workshops will draw on insights from knowledge exchange theory to model a format that gives equal space to story-telling from the front line and theoretical insights, with the aim of generating new knowledge for practice and academia. We plan to hold these face to face in the East and West Midlands of England in early 2022, but we will move them online if necessary. We will advertise the events widely within our own academic networks as well as through VSSN, NAVCA and other voluntary sector networks in order to attract practitioners to explore their experiences and challenges in shaping place and to reach academics with an interest in bringing a theoretical perspective to the topic. Ultimately, we hope the workshops will lead to an edited book and we have been in discussion with Policy Press about this.

Emily Lau: A short documentary on the value of place leadership in small communities by Food Friends

Food Friends will use the VSSN Development grant to film a short documentary about the value of place leadership in small communities. During the pandemic, Food Friends a small project tackling poverty and isolation was able to pivot its operations to work with other food projects, secure emergency funding and work with some of those most vulnerable in their community. Lessons learned from the way local project leaders and small organisations responded during the crisis are important for planning and funding projects into the future.

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