Funding place-based systemic change: Grapevine case study
The funding place-based systemic change project includes a series of case studies from places and organisations that are learning to change systems. The framework for place-based systemic change describes five approaches to change.
This case study describes approach 5: local organisation evolution
Local organisation approaches are designed by a funder or are explicitly led by the resource. They build off or spark some practice locally (which could be anything from a community group to a local institution), but the role of the funder shapes how it is understood. This can give a programmatic feel, but it can also bring the significant potential for system change.
Summary approach and learning
By working closely with individuals in a place, Grapevine Coventry and Warwickshire has changed how it frames problems and how individuals solve those problems for themselves.
About Grapevine Coventry and Warwickshire
Grapevine’s vision is to see strong local people and communities tackling their challenges, taking opportunities, and shaping their own lives.
Thirteen years ago Grapevine was a small single-issue charity helping Coventry people with learning disabilities lead ‘a more just life, a life like any other’. Along the way they developed a theory that:
They began exploring new methods and expanded their reach to offer support to people facing all kinds of tough times, whatever labels or diagnosis they were given. In shifting from a single-issue charity, community organising became a key part of their approach particularly in relation to health issues and working with health partners.
Over the last five years, the organisation has learnt about the role of mobilisation to connect people to overcome issues of health, wellbeing and isolation.
Grapevine is bounded by geography but the work they did on health, wellbeing and isolation was not necessarily connected to place until they started working in one defined area, Stoke Aldermoor. With their focus on shifting power into the hands of individuals, and an awareness that the networks around those individuals can be actively strengthened to help the whole community, they began to use the place as a route into improving individuals’ wellbeing by asking the question, “What do you want to change in Stoke Aldermoor?” rather than “what do you want to change in your life?”
Through this movement building approach, they have learnt about the power of place and how it resonates with individuals is relevant for their relationships with each other, their communities and the institutions that operate across their lives.
As a result, Grapevine has become something of a key organisation within the local voluntary sector in Coventry and is building a relationship with the local authority around the principle of movement building in the city.
It is also building on that organisational practice and experience in a particular neighbourhood of the city – Stoke Aldermoor. This means that Grapevine has moved from supporting an individual issue, to enabling individuals to take power, to thinking about how relationships sit in a geography around those individuals.
The role of Grapevine has had to change, to enable that individual power building, and to carefully not claim power from the community. It doesn’t try to manage and doesn’t try to facilitate or convene the voluntary sector. It works to find leaders, support, develop and connect them, and be there when needed. It is a careful and, at times, slow process but one with a clear vision of individuals, relationships and place.
Resourcing and operating
As a charity, Grapevine is reliant on a typical funding mix of grants, commissions and contracts to piece together its work.
It’s key asset is power. Grapevine is completely contingent on the work it does to support individuals and the community to have more power. This means that Grapevine operates differently as it builds relationships with the community; it doesn’t consult, or co-produce. Instead its organisers build relationships first and encourages others to do the same. As a resident said:
Grapevine has evolved significantly in recent years. That change came from an insight that focussed on power and justice for people who were not getting what they needed from existing services. As it has changed, Grapevine has engaged more and more in places and systems. They are the locations for, and the forces that stand in the way of, people living the lives they want.
The next step is to take that thinking beyond the local. How could Grapevine apply their principles to city-wide work and what institutions must they engage with to do that? And importantly, and how do they do this without taking the power away from the people?
John Hitchin will be presenting the learning from the Funding Place-Based Systemic Change project with the chair of the project steering group, Natsayi Sithole of Save the Children UK and Stephen Skeet from Volunteering Matters online at 12.30-2pm on 4th November.