I recently came across Google’s ‘Ad Grants’ for non-profits, and wanted to share my insight from this to EVOC’s members and readers.
Many organisations may be aware, and others not yet alert to the fact that a Scottish Government consultation has just closed, seeking views on further extending the coverage of FOISA, with a focus on those who provide services on behalf of the public sector.
The Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA)
The full consultation description is here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/freedom-information-extension-coverage-consultation/
At the last meeting of the Third Sector Strategy Group the proposals were discussed and it was agreed that Edinburgh TSI would submit a succinct consultation response copied below:
We believe that the proposed extension is a ‘sledgehammer to crack at a nut’. Members of the public and all stakeholders are entitled to receive information on the provision of public services and this entitlement should be ‘blind’ to the nature, sector or legal form of the ‘provider’ of services.
However, to ask hard-pressed and already stretched third sector organisations to take on the responsibility of dealing with requests for information under FOISA is unnecessary, counter-productive, time consuming and would likely cause confusion amongst both organisations and members of the public. The necessary investment in training and awareness-raising would be, in itself, a waste of time and resources for all concerned.
The solution is a simple one; local authorities, Health Boards or other public bodies who contract-out services falling under FOISA regulations, should write into such contracts that they as the contracting authority can request from the contractor appropriate and proportionate information, should they receive requests from members of the public that require a response from organisations delivering that contract. Public bodies have the resources and policy frameworks required for dealing with FOISA requests. Using these existing channels for public enquiries, and seeking information from contractors for the public body’s FOISA team to then collate as a response to FOISA requests is a sensible and simple solution.
Fellow voluntary sector infrastructure bodies such as our friends at SCVO are taking a similar view to that expressed above and have developed an unrivaled depth of understanding around this issue.
Hopefully Scottish Government will listen and take a sensible approach.
It’s good to see media support for drug and alcohol funding, although of course sad that the stark drug related deaths figures released this week were needed to bring this about. Drug related deaths are an indicator of the increasing pressures but are unfortunately only the tip of the iceberg.
It’s always helpful to have the profile of this issue raised but important to read the comments I made in context. On June 21st I made a deputation on behalf of the Substance Use Network Edinburgh and the Edinburgh Mental Health Forum to the Edinburgh Integration Joint Board (IJB) in opposition to a proposal to absorb underspend from two streams of Scottish Government funding into the IJB’s deficit – £1.78m in total. This proposal was particularly hard to take because the underspend had been incurred due to the IJB not considering spending plans immediately after they were prepared almost a year before.
The in depth discussion that followed the deputation was balanced and considered. Members of the IJB decided to reject the proposal to direct the funding towards the overall deficit. They indicated support for the money being spent on what it was intended for, and a recognition of the level of need for these services. We need to get final sign off on spending the funds at the August IJB meeting, and we look forward to being able to improve the outcomes for the people this funding was intended for.
I can’t pretend to support or understand the decisions that took place leading to the delay in considering the spending plans and to proposing that the money be diverted elsewhere. But I do understand the degree of pressure on the IJB to support increasing levels of need with an ever tighter budget.
It’s yet another painful demonstration of the inevitable impacts of austerity. In May the UN Poverty Rapporteur described a nation with a ‘harsh and uncaring ethos’ that I felt ashamed to be part of. Numbers of homeless people are rising and the health challenges associated with this are predictably dire. This week we’re struck by drug related deaths. It won’t stop until we recognise that austerity is at the heart of all these issues, and that public services can never be slashed without devastating human consequences.
You can watch the deputation and discussion here.
Maria Arnold, Senior Development Worker (Adult Health & Wellbeing)
Happy Birthday Flora!
Tuesday 30th October 2018 would have been Flora Stevenson’s 179th birthday. Flora was a social reformer and suffragist with a special interest in education. She played an active role in EVOC’s predecessor organisation, the Edinburgh Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor.
The EVOC 150 team chose to mark Flora’s birthday in the only appropriate way, with a party! But not just any party. We were absolutely delighted to work with the Flora Stevenson Primary School to deliver a day-long Victorian-themed birthday bonanza involving all staff, pupils and the parents council, a mere 700-odd individuals. Three cheers to everyone involved!
Recipe for Success
I am incredibly proud of what we managed to achieve in just over five weeks and extra special thanks must go to Sharon McGhee and Amanda Burton, headteacher and depute headteacher respectively at Flora’s for their approachability, creativity and enthusiasm.
Our mutual aims were to honour the legacy of Flora; raise awareness of, learn about and encourage volunteerism and social action; promote the EVOC 150 project, and have fun! With just three short planning meetings squeezed in amongst packed schedules we went from the initial germ of an idea to a mammoth event. It was a lesson for me in how much is possible with limited resources and a (very) moderate budget topped with a healthy serving of belief.
The Big Day
From our initial meeting the school were determined to find a way of including the families of pupils as well. The day started with a mini volunteer fayre in the Hall of Happiness accompanied by a performance by The Music School. I had thoroughly underestimated how good the exceptionally talented musicians would be and should never have based my preconceptions on my own primary school recorder group!
GirlGuiding Edinburgh, Health in Mind, Edinburgh Leisure (Ageing Well), The Yard, Cyrenians and The Rock Trust promoted their organisations and volunteering opportunities to families in a packed hall.
Christy Thomson from The Yard said: “I loved coming and thought it was really nice to be a part of the day…I think [it] was really useful”. It was fantastic to see so many people come in and we were grateful to have the support of Cllr Hal Osler who joined us for the whole morning.
With a swiftly executed five-minute turnaround the hall was transformed into party central. Thanks to an exceptional feat of organisation which would put many professional logistics experts to shame, over the course of the next six hours we rotated all children by year group in and out of the hall.
Once inside the children learnt why the school and EVOC had collaborated for Flora’s birthday, played traditional Victorian games including pass the slipper (plimsole) and Blind Man’s Buff and learnt about what life would have been like during Flora’s time with the help of handling boxes from the Outreach Service at Museums and Galleries Edinburgh.
Happy Birthday Flora was sung loud and proud and once the vocal cords were warm Daisy Bell was also recited. I’m pretty sure it’s going to take between 150 and 179 years for me to get the latter out of my head. Finally, no party is complete without appropriate sustenance. The parent council completed an epic baking mission to provide mountains of Victoria Sponge cakes and Morrisons Ferry Road kindly donated so we could hydrate the children with lashings of lemonade. Many thanks to Yasmin and Alea from EVOC; Tricia, EVOC 150 volunteer and Hal for managing an industrial-sized production line of all of the above treats.
Back in class away from the frivolities in the hall, all children created birthday cards for Flora and included a pledge to volunteer or be of service in some other way as a way of honouring Flora’s legacy. All staff and students had either chosen to dress-up as Victorians to signify the past, or come in their uniform to signify the present. I wonder what schools will look like 179 years from now?
This day would not have been the stand-out success it was without the help and enthusiasm of all those mentioned above and more. We are able to celebrate EVOC’s 150th year with events like this with thanks to lottery players and the Heritage Lottery Fund. Hip Hip Hooray!
As I approach my three-month anniversary at EVOC, I’ve decided it’s important to pause for a moment to reflect on what we have achieved so far with the EVOC 150 project and what’s in store over the next six months.
What is EVOC 150?
EVOC turned 150 years-old in March 2018 and was awarded funding by the Heritage Lottery Fund to deliver a programme of events, communications and initiatives to celebrate this milestone.
Originally established as the catchily-named Edinburgh Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor, the organisation has morphed and developed over the last century-and-a-half to what it is today. You can find out more on our website.
Through the EVOC 150 project we will excavate the heritage of Edinburgh’s voluntary sector, celebrate the work and individuals involved so far, and look ahead to what could or will be in store for the sector over the next 150 years. No mean feat! Our project is focused on four themes: organising, tackling inequality, protest and campaigning, and working together.
This project has the exciting potential to make a major contribution to the profile of the third sector in Edinburgh and beyond, and as we face a period of transition and uncertainty in the UK it is a fantastic opportunity to research and document the importance of the sector. Sometimes the opportunity to simply explain what the third sector actually is, is enough, but I have bigger dreams than that!
What have we been working on?
Media Education has a team of young filmmakers creating a documentary on the history of EVOC. I’ll say no more on that as I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but it’s going to be fantastic! Young people from their Friday film club produced two short, silent films about the life of Elsie Inglis (see below).
The Living Memory Association have digitised thousands of archive photos and are recording an oral history of EVOC and community/civic action in Edinburgh.
We have been attending events and meeting individuals across the city to spread the EVOC 150 word, and to consider ways to collaborate. We celebrated International Day of Charity by touring a small number of the thousands of charities based in Edinburgh to deliver thank you cards and profile their work with short videos on social media. We have also recently appointed three professional researchers who are soon to say goodbye to loved ones as they venture deep into various archives to interrogate the history of the organisation. They hope to be allowed to surface before Christmas to share some initial findings.
What are we planning?
We will focus on some of the causes central to EVOC’s mission by making a splash on various awareness days. I say this with a full appreciation that for anyone involved with: older people, young people, mental health, volunteers, eradication of poverty, human rights…to name a few, every day/year is their day.
We will present the research mentioned above in a public format early next year. This might be a touring exhibition, an interpretive dance or a projection onto the castle (some of these suggestions are definitely in jest). Watch this space! We are busy planning for the EVOC conference in November and are hoping to deliver an event as part of the Fire Starter Festival 2019.
We are also working with a volunteer storyteller who is deeply passionate about the importance of the third sector and the transformative potential of volunteering. I am delighted he found us and can’t wait to schedule his first engagements.
How can you get involved?
We would love to hear from anyone with an interest in this project and are open to all ideas and possible collaborations, creativity is encouraged! If this is too broad, below are some suggestions of who this might appeal to.
• You are involved with a school in Edinburgh looking for an interdisciplinary learning project
• You are involved with a youth group, community centre, care home, sports club, art group or similar and would like to host our storyteller at one of your meetings/events
• You would like to run an event for a relevant awareness day but would like some support
• You have a story of volunteering, fundraising, campaigning or similar that you would like to contribute to our Memory Box
• You would like us to feature your organisation or community in a case study
• You have a noticeboard we could display an A4 poster on, or a space to host some promotional postcards.
Get in touch by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow our hashtag, #EVOC150, on social media.
When a voluntary group hears that someone is coming to talk about their transport, the first reaction is often “please don’t take our bus away!” So I’ve been privileged to spend six months at EVOC supporting an innovative project to improve transport for third sector day centres and lunch clubs. Ageing populations and increasing expectations for community-based support mean growing transport needs and the Council is keen to find alternatives to simply paying more for expensive private minibus and taxi services or adding to the Council’s own Passenger Operations – the ‘white bus fleet’ which, with 73 vehicles is a substantial enterprise.
The Council therefore asked Edinburgh’s Community Transport (CT) providers for proposals to help meet this increasing demand for transport. Edinburgh has some of the best respected CT providers in Scotland (and the UK), several started as EVOC initiatives. Four groups – HcL (Handicabs), Lothian Community Transport Services, Pilton Equalities Project, and South Edinburgh Amenities Group (SEAG) – entered into a Public Social Partnership (PSP) with the Council in 2016 to work together to identify ways of improving efficiency, effectiveness and service quality.
My role at EVOC was mainly to facilitate the CT groups arriving at an agreed business case to meet the Council’s transport requirements. The proposed initiative, to be considered by Council Committee in October, may see new transport provision by CT groups beginning next year for a number of third sector day care services, lunch clubs and summer play schemes; A few personal reflections….
A Varying Appetite for Risk
No one doubts the benefits of partnership working; but because it requires a consensus, partnership can lead to low-risk options being favoured. Different partners invariably have a varying appetite for risk – this can mean that it is hard to get agreement for more ambitious, but more risky options. It may be easier to generate really innovative solutions where there is no need to keep a range of partners on-side.
While the project was conducted in the spirit of co-production, power in a co-production environment is rarely equally shared. The dynamics of co-production where one party has more power, influence – and yes, money! – than the others can be challenging.
Before I became involved in the project, a lot of effort had been put into establishing PSP governance. Although this created a sound platform for collaboration, limited progress had been made in actually extending the role of the CT groups on the ground, while a lot of energy and goodwill had been consumed. Too much emphasis on ‘process’ and not enough on ‘outcome’ can stifle creativity, enthusiasm and practical delivery.
Finally, the success of the PSP partners in reaching an agreed way forward is highly dependent on the willingness of the Council to positively review funding to the CT groups. It is much more difficult to achieve a successful outcome to a partnership change initiative where resources are reducing.
My main motivation, initially, for getting involved in charities, was that I had recently moved to Edinburgh and didn’t know anyone in the City aside from my new work colleagues. I joined a charity as a volunteer and after finding out they were looking for a new treasurer, decided to join their board of trustees.
I hadn’t volunteered as a trustee before, but I had always been involved in students’ union work whilst at university, it seemed like a natural progression to go sit on a board after graduating. No one paid me to say this, but, going on EVOC’s training for charity trustees was hugely beneficial – I admit I was pretty clueless about charity rules and regulations, I had jumped into the role a bit head first!
Thankfully, I had supportive fellow board members beside me to help me learn about my new role and as I was working in a junior position at work, I enjoyed the new responsibilities that the role gave me. Working with the charity gave me invaluable experience; from grant writing, to writing business plans and understanding HR. I’m not going to lie and say it was plain sailing, it was an incredible learning curve, especially when I became co-chair with a fellow trustee.
Volunteering as a trustee gave me experience and examples of much higher level work than my paid job did, which helped me greatly when looking for new jobs and progressing my career. It also broadened my horizons outwith my career in admin. It gave me greater work-place resilience, made me realise my own capabilities and helped improve my own self-confidence. I volunteered with the charity for over two years as a trustee, and it was a difficult decision to step down when I did. I’ve since been volunteering in non-trustee roles, but I am currently looking into joining another board in the near future.
Edinburgh Voluntary Organisations’ Council reaches the grand old age of 150 this year. From April, we intend to spend much of the next year researching the reason for EVOC’s formation, the social and civic context it operated within, and the extraordinary people that have been involved the Organisation in some way or another.
With that in mind, a couple of weeks ago I donned my heritage hat and headed down to Edinburgh Central Library with our Convenor to rummage around some of our archives. Admittedly, having glanced the titles of the documents on our inventory, I was a little concerned that my morning would consist of wading through 150 years of dry meeting minutes. I needn’t have worried however as one of the first documents to grab my attention was a personal letter from Octavia Hill* to Helen Louisa Kerr.
Helen Louisa Kerr was a formidable woman, a social worker and researcher she was at one time the Director of the Edinburgh Social Union. Her knowledge of social reform and housing lead her to become the only female member of the Royal Commission to enquire into Housing of the Industrial Population of Scotland in 1912. She conducted a series of lectures on poverty and wrote the preface for Dr Chalmers and the Poor Laws 1911. She was appointed a Manager of the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, pushed for the establishment of a Scottish Board of Nursing, and worked to further the professionalisation of nurses.
In the correspondence Hill praises Kerr and the Edinburgh Social Union for their work on the regeneration of housing for the poor, stating “I know how, in your place, I should long to do the work; I know well how incomparably better done it would be by you and yours”.
In the Third Annual Report of the City of Edinburgh Charity Organisation Society 1909, the name by which EVOC was known at the time, Kerr is listed as an Honourable Secretary. This is a remarkable document, not only because it details the collaborative relationships between statutory, public, academic and charitable organisations, but also because it highlights the work of women in Edinburgh in their mission to improve the welfare of the City’s citizens. In a section titled ‘The Prevention of Infant Mortality’, which discusses the work to improve the health of new-born babies by voluntary organisations and the City Council, we learn that Dr Elsie Inglis arranged a series of lectures to health visitors and mothers.
Dr Elsie Inglis (1864 – 1917) was one of Scotland’s most influential suffragists, and was secretary of the Edinburgh National Society for Women’s Suffrage, and honorary acting secretary in the early years of the Scottish Federation of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies. After studying at the Edinburgh School of Medicine for Women which was opened by Dr Sophia Jex-Blake (of Edinburgh Seven fame), Inglis went on to dedicate much of her medical career to improving the healthcare provision for female patients. She studied and qualified from a number of leading hospitals for the improvement of women’s health and returned to Edinburgh to set up a maternity hospital for poor women, a midwifery training centre, and used her connections in the suffrage movement to raise money for the Scottish Women’s Hospitals. During the First World War Inglis created a Medical Unit staffed by qualified women, and offered their services to the Royal Army Medical Corps. The offer was declined, rather condescendingly, by the War Office, yet the merit of the Unit was recognised by the French government and they were deployed in Serbia.
To see the names of these incredible women, amongst many others, mentioned in documents that relate to our Organisation’s history is humbling to say the least. While I feel as though we have only just scratched the surface, I hope through further research we find more out about the women that have fought for the welfare of our citizens, that we give them the recognition they deserve, and we celebrate the women today who continue their legacy.
Would you be interested in this supporting this research? Let us know by contacting email@example.com
While I would love to list every great organisation, movement and project that support and champion women in Scotland, I can’t, but here is a selection of links that I think are a good place to start:
Lothian Women’s Forum (who have a very helpful page on Helen Kerr): https://www.wealothianwomensforum.org.uk/
Engender Scotland: https://www.engender.org.uk/
Equate Scotland: https://www.equatescotland.org.uk/
Fearless Femme: https://www.fearlessfemme.co.uk
Finally – a big International Women’s Day shoutout to all of the charities and organisations working tirelessly for women’s rights, safety and wellbeing in our City. You know who you are!
For illustrations of great women follow HB Artivists on Instagram
Follow us on twitter @Evoc_Edinburgh
*Octavia Hill (1838 – 1912) was credited with being the driving force behind the development of social housing, a founder of the National Trust and founding member of the Charities Organisation Society. Her approach to social housing, known as the Octavia Hill system, employed women to collect rent and care for the welfare of the residents as much as the condition of the buildings.
Isn’t it great when things really are learnt from good practice?
When my colleague Katherine, David (from the Cooncil) and I set off on our 6 hour round train trip on a Friday morning to North Ayrshire I wasn’t absolutely convinced it was great use of more than one third of my working week hours – I could feel the emails stacking up in the inbox in the office. It was a grey, bleak day and David had finished his lunchtime butties before we had even reached Haymarket… (you know the kind of trip). We had heard that North Ayrshire Council had managed to get brilliant engagement with young people when they ran a participatory budgeting for youth work in the area. Over 50% of young people in North Ayrshire had voted, which translated into around 5000 participants between the ages of 12 – 25. That is pretty impressive stuff, and we wanted to find out more.
Donna, the ‘one woman turbo engagement machine’ from North Ayrshire Council was responsible for running the show, was also impressive, but in her own words ‘not always popular’, when she added to the workload of the schools in the area. Events were run in each locality and young people voted in schools, youth centres/clubs, residential units, job centres, homeless hostels etc. In schools the voting was built into the school timetable – so they weren’t just relying on lunchtime activity. Donna saw no barriers to participation that couldn’t be crashed through with a little effort and understanding, they hadn’t got it all right straight away but every year they were getting better. Social media was used extensively to promote the voting, and a promotional video created for each project by the Council, so that each project could be promoted consistently, rather than expect projects to market themselves which can have varying outcomes depending on skill.
The youth PB project was promoted as not just being about voting but active citizenship, community cohesion/participation. As my 11-year-old is coming home with tales of how she is learning about parliament and voting, and how it’s all a bit dull, I try to instill in her how exciting it can be if you keep it real and believe that people can have a say. By being able to play her part in democracy rather than just hearing the theory might just make the difference to how engaged she is in the future.
What have we learnt? Well since that trip the Council have made some changes to their plans for the voting in the Participatory Budgeting Choose Youth Work 2018-2019 Grants programme. This year Andy Gray, Head of Schools and Lifelong Learning, has written to all Edinburgh’s secondary head teachers asking them to nominate a teacher or member of staff with whom the steering group for Choose Youth Work 2019-19 can liaise directly and organise the voting.
Perhaps taking the time out of our day to visit North Ayrshire PB made the difference, perhaps a bit like PB we needed the time to prepare and reflect for us to really take on the information, to make something happen and to make an impact.
With any luck we will see a real difference to the level of engagement with young people this year as they vote for the projects that they think sound like what they need. The truth, of course, is in the participation in the voting…and we won’t hear back about that until the votes are cast in March. Watch this space. Read more here
This tongue twister of a workshop title comes from a Governance Institute paper called “Cultural Markers: Assessing, measuring and Improving Culture in the Charitable Sector”. I think it really captures the essence of good governance and why it’s so important and this was the focus of this workshop at our Conference.
We had a discussion about what good governance is, how it’s achieved, and some of the reasons it can be so difficult. Some of the fundamentals of a well-run board that workshop attendees identified were: trustees who understand their role, transparency, trustees who share the values of the organisation, good policies and structures – and ensuring they’re followed, inclusion, and a culture of healthy debate. Whilst these points are the ideal, we also identified some of the challenges to achieving these such as:
- trustees who lack time or commitment;
- trustees who don’t understand the role;
- disinterest or lack of understanding of the finances of the organisation;
- poor organisation – board papers not going out on time;
- not having a good understanding of the risks to the organisation or how to mitigate them;
- and the constitution not being referred to, understood, or being out of date.
Some of these can seem fairly minor, but in fact, they can create significant weak points in the organisation that can have serious implications.
We also discussed the importance of the relationship between the board and the senior management of organisations. Everyone had different ways of ensuring that relationship worked well – for some it meant having occasional board meetings where senior management don’t attend, for others they have a trustee only meeting for the first 30 minutes and senior management join after that. It highlighted the fact that very often there are not hard and fast rules for organisations to achieve the ideals of good governance – it’s up to the trustees to figure out what works best and to have the flexibility for that to change over time.
The workshop attendees were people from organisations just starting out and people who have been on boards or worked for charities for a long time, very small entirely volunteer-run organisations and larger ones. With such a diverse range of experience in the room, it was a good opportunity to have discussions about common issues and practical solutions that we found have helped in real life situations. As a bonus, our icebreaker was to name a favourite film so I’m hoping everyone came away with some good movie suggestions for the weekend!
If you have specific queries you would like answered, then you can contact our Organisational Development team by filling in a referral form.