The ILG has recognised the potential value of applying its approach on a wider regional or sub regional scale. In order to support the development of such larger scale initiatives, funding has been earmarked for two major 'signature' projects. These projects will establish a steering group involving key stakeholders with interest in developing a specific policy initiative, covering a wide geographical area and drawing on university expertise in designing and delivering the project. The approach might entail, for example, the commissioning of background research followed by pilot studies seeking to evaluate the initiatives in particular council areas. The two projects are outlined below.
The role of social enterprise in the delivery of public services and assumption of responsibility for community buildings through asset transfer.
Following a change of government in May 2010 and subsequent changes in the policy environment, together with substantial downward pressure on local authority finances, councils face significant challenges in the delivery of public services and provision of community facilities. Many councils are actively considering, or have already implemented, policies to deliver services in new ways. One option many councils are taking seriously is to increase their involvement with social enterprise to help deliver services under contract on councils’ behalf and/or independently to provide community facilities following asset transfer.
The Institute for Local Governance, in collaboration with Durham County Council and Northumberland County Council, intends to establish an action research project to provide practical, evidence-based support to community groups, existing or emergent social enterprises and council officers in delivering strategic objectives in two strands.This will involve the establishment of a steering group of academic specialists, support agencies, individual social enterprises and interested local authorities. A study of the 'generic' business development issues surrounding the establishment of alternative models of service delivery will be undertaken and this will be followed by more specific work in specific geographical areas and sectors.
Preparatory work has been taking place with a commitment to engage in the steering group and project from leading social entrepreneurs, the North East Social Enterprise Partnership, academic specialists in the field, and a number of local authorities including Sunderland, Gateshead, and Durham and Northumberland County Councils. This work has also included an input into a Regional Growth Fund bid for the social enterprise sector, led by Gateshead Council.
The Institute for Local Governance has been asked to broker an evaluation of The Diamond Model, a new way of delivering local services for young people being implemented by the Regional Youth Work Unit (RYWU). The model seeks to explore a new way of thinking about, and delivering local services to young people. It is intended that the model will be piloted in Darlington and Gateshead in the first instance. It is essential that a rigorous formative and summative evaluation of these pilots is conducted in order to fully inform the planned rolling-out of the model across the region.
Working with the RYWU, a leading voluntary sector organisation in the field, and academics from the five universities, a research and knowledge transfer network is already in place and development work is proceeding. A work programme has been drawn up with the RYWU, and several councils including Gateshead and Darlington have expressed interest in taking the project.