Helping communities thrive in just 100 days

By Susie Finlayson, Power to Change

“If you were given the opportunity to develop ideas to support children, young people and families in your neighbourhood, and had just 100 days to bring those to life, what would you do?”

That was the challenge recently set for three Liverpool communities, with support from Nesta, charitable trust Power to Change, and local decision-makers across Liverpool City Council, Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust and Liverpool Charity and Voluntary Services (LCVS).

As Power to Change supports and develops community businesses in England, we jumped at the chance to partner on this programme. We were curious to see whether the 100 Day Challenge approach could significantly shift the relationship between communities and the public sector.

We also wanted to learn what it takes for places to create the space for people to connect, share the value they all bring and collaborate to drive change that matters to them.

Instead of prescribing what they think the answers are, could decision-makers step into a different type of leadership? One where they are asking questions and creating the conditions that unlock the strengths of local people and organisations?

Launch day for the 100 Day Challenge

They’ve made work happen in weeks that would normally take months

The three teams based in Anfield and Everton, Princes Park and Speke-Garston have started by listening — asking children, young people and families what they think needs to change for them to thrive in their neighbourhoods. More than 40 frontline staff, parents, young people and community members are running with their ideas based on the needs and strengths of their own community. What feels unusual is the sheer number of different organisations from across the public and voluntary and community sectors that are working together, in many cases for the first time, towards a common goal — at the last count there were more than 20!

Diversity has been key to how quickly teams have moved to action. Through pooling their resources and energies, they’ve made work happen in weeks that would normally take months. From getting five local businesses to offer apprenticeships for local teenagers, to developing the ‘Play Pound’, a new fund owned by the community to protect play opportunities for children in their neighbourhood, or working with families and the fire service to incentivise primary school children who are absent to attend school.

Testing of the 24 Magic Maths app

“What’s strong, not what’s wrong”

A member of the Princes Park team and local community activist said: “One thing that feels different is that there are people around the table that I haven’t worked with before — it’s not been all the usual suspects. The 100 Day Challenge has given us some space to think differently about things outside the context of our jobs and in a group that wouldn’t usually get together.”

Without the work the teams are doing on the ground to show leadership the reality of what enables and gets in the way of their ambitions, embedding an approach that focuses on “what’s strong, not what’s wrong” across the city would be much more challenging.

Critically, the leadership group working alongside teams is made up of partners representing the whole system. This includes various directorates at Liverpool City Council but also health, housing, fire service, policing and the local voluntary sector. We’ve seen a growing commitment from all the partners to make this joined-up way of working the ‘new normal’, embedded within strategic plans for the City.

Teams are running towards Day 100 with lots of events and initiatives happening over the next month as they develop their ideas.

What we’re seeing is that the challenge is about creating different relationships and rebalancing power between communities, citizens and the public sector.

It’s demonstrating one way that places and public services can provide a supportive environment for communities and frontline staff to work together.

Over the remaining 25 days and beyond, Power to Change is excited to see how this approach to innovation can influence models of partnership across the city and beyond, contributing to great places to live and strong and inclusive local economies.”

To find out more about the work of the People Powered Results team read the report reflecting on five years of the 100 Day Challenge.

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Susie Finlayson leads on health and social care and public service at Power to Change. Supporting community owned and led businesses delivering health or social care related services and working with partners to explore the role, impact and sustainability of community businesses in public service. She works directly with community business and collaborates across sectors with local and national partners including NHS, local authorities, national charities and providers. She has a background in frontline care provision and more recently has focussed on social innovation and community-led enterprise across sectors including place-based development and health, providing capacity building and development support to charities and social enterprises.