Renaisi welcomes the very positive proposals in Danny Kruger MP’s report Levelling Up Our Communities.

The wide-ranging proposals to strengthen civil society, with improved infrastructure, more funding and support for communities, in the Levelling Up Our Communities report are welcomed.

Renaisi is particularly pleased see an acknowledgement of the need for systemic change to support communities, and a strong proposal – followed by a commitment from the Prime Minster – on social value spending.

What does it take to improve a place?

The report outlines 3 Ps, people, power and place, and goes on to acknowledge that the policy world has recently reawoken to the concept of ‘place’:

“the idea that the distinctiveness of a borough, town or district, and the attachment local people feel to it, are its key assets; that decision-makers should work together, and with communities, to create more bespoke local policy rather than operating in silos; and that the culture, environment, look and feel of places matters as much to their prosperity as their economic connectivity or business infrastructure.”

Place based working has defined most of Renaisi’s 22 years and our strategy is built around answering the question, what does it take to improve a place? To help us answer the question, we work with charities and funders of place-based change, and we focus on two areas that we know best; Hackney and Southwark.  In both areas we deliver employability services as well as coordinating place-based partnerships.

Public procurement for social good

In Hackney, we facilitate a network of ‘anchor organisations’ exploring opportunities to build community wealth. In Southwark, we coordinate the Local Access Partnership aimed at tackling inequality by boosting the social economy. This work informed part of Renaisi’s response to Kruger’s request for proposals. We called for support to grow and engage local VCSE’s in public sector supply chains, which the report recognises as an issue, quoting Social Enterprise UK:

“only eight per cent of the £300 billion public sector procurement budget actively champions socially and environmentally responsible business practice.”

We’re hopeful that Kruger’s report, launched at the same time as the new the Social Value Model, will help to address the significant missed opportunity that £3 billion currently represents for creating social value from public procurement.

Systemic change

The report does not shy away from criticising the status quo:

“the pandemic has exposed failings in our official systems, and it has cruelly exacerbated existing inequalities in our society.”

Kruger is clear that civil society is a vital component in our country’s recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. The report goes so far as to say:

“To build back better we need a new economic and social model to replace the one that preceded the [Covid] crisis. Because before the crisis hit, our communities were in trouble”.

Now the government must take these recommendations and work collaboratively with charities, social enterprises and community organisations to ‘build back better’.

That is easier said than done, as was revealed through the Funding Place Based Systemic Change project. Chaired by Save the Children UK, the project brought charities and funders together to explore how to best manage funds to support long-term, place-based systemic change. Renaisi produced the resulting leaning papers, which include a framework for progressing systemic change and a series of case studies about places and organisations that are still learning to change systems to achieve positive change.

None of the organisations think that they are doing place-based systems-change correctly or even entirely. All of them saw it as vital and recognised at least some elements of their work in the definition:

“Place-based systemic change is an approach to social change, rather than an outcome of it, and is defined by focus, time horizon, approach, scale and intentionality.”

The next phase of this project will see a community of practice explore how to achieve the place-based systemic change the country has needed for some time.

John Hitchin Renaisi CEO