A timeline of place-based work
Renaisi was set up in 1998 to work within deprived neighbourhoods. It was an era of significant government investment and a focus on neighbourhoods drove our work. While much has changed in the intervening twenty years, not least how community work is funded, Renaisi has remained embedded in some of the most diverse and dynamic communities in East and South London.
We turned 20 in 2018 and we celebrated that milestone by asking practitioners, thought leaders and customers the strategic question that drives our work: ‘What does it take to improve a place’? You can read those essays here.
‘Place-based’ working is an increasingly popular approach to social change but it has defined most of Renaisi’s 20+ years. We use place as a lens to view individual and societal issues, because:
- it can resonate with everybody who lives or works there, which helps build a clear and understandable vision for the long term
- it encourages consideration of people who are not in the room
- it breaks down service silos and bureaucracies by posing different questions
- it brings focus on sustaining relationships that engender long term resilience, support and, possibly, systems change.
More recently we have developed expertise in systems approaches to help us to see the interconnected and embedded nature of problems – including all the different people, organisations, structures and values that affect a person, a place or an issue.
Our history of place-based working
A timeline of some of the place-based work and projects Renaisi has been involved in.
Urban regeneration and the start of Renaisi
Much New Labour era thinking on investing in was linked to social and economic concerns about urban areas. The Government invited local authorities to draw up programmes of action to tackle their key neighbourhoods. Authorities expected to draw upon the wealth of talent and expertise within their cities. Renaisi founders were involved in the City Challenge in Dalston, North London and this work helped shape the creation of Renaisi in 1998.
Collaborating to improve a place
Single Regeneration Budget
Renaisi was involved in the management of many Single Regeneration Budgets across East London, which pulled together different government programmes and funding streams to try and simplify funding to better support local regeneration projects.
These years taught us a great deal about the challenges of investing in place and working in partnership and about the importance of local diversity.
Investing in Hackney
Invest in Hackney
In our early years, Renaisi did a great deal of work supporting Hackney Council and the borough of Hackney. One of our proudest and most important programmes of that time was the running of the inward investment agency, Invest in Hackney. It taught us a great deal about the borough, about the role of the private sector in a place, and about how local economies change.
Managing significant, long term government investment in a place
EC1 New Deal for Communities
The government experimentation in place-based investment, which started with City Challenge, ended with the enormous New Deal for Communities programme.
NDC ran across 39 neighbourhoods in England and Renaisi did a wide variety of work with many of those neighbourhoods. We ran the EC1 NDC from start to finish, managing all aspects of that £52million investment in one neighbourhood in South Islington.
What we learnt in that time shaped a great deal of how Renaisi thinks about place now.
Developing a learning community of regeneration practitioners
For four years Renaisi managed the DCLG’s national learning programme to equip practitioners with the tools and knowledge to improve quality of life in neighbourhoods.
Running the Academy taught us a lot about how to run communities of practice and learning events.
Being ambitious about community-led change
We were part of the consortium that helped establish the Big Local programme in 2011, which established Local Trust and has gone on to do much more than Big Local.
Big Local gave 150 communities at least £1m with no strings attached to use as they see fit. Renaisi managed the professional advisors to the 150 areas, developing learning, support and collaboration for those individuals and the places. We continue to work with Local Trust on projects like Measuring Change.
Bringing together private, charitable and social enterprise sectors
Renaisi helped establish Our Parklife in partnership with charity and private sector partners, and we still sit on the board. The CIC was designed to help lock in the employment, volunteering and social benefit of the Olympic Games into the park, which straddles four North London boroughs, post 2012.
Unlocking the capacity of communities to take a lead in their neighbourhoods
DCLG Neighbourhood Planning & Capacity Building Evaluation
In 2015/16 when the Conservative government wanted communities to become more self-reliant and to take advantage of new powers available to them to improve their local areas, Renaisi worked in partnership to design and deliver the DCLG’s Neighbourhood Planning & Capacity Building programme. The programme was delivered in six deprived areas of the country.
This programme emphasised to us that neighbourhood planning is not a linear process and neither is community engagement. It is messy, iterative and opportunistic, and literacy or language issues serve as additional barriers to engagement in many communities.
Helping social sector organisations to design, appraise, evaluate and learn.
Impact and Evaluation team formed
Applying our experience of programmes like the EC1 New Deal for Communities, we began supporting charities to design, appraise, evaluate and learn about the impact of their services. Over the last 10 years, this research and evaluation service has grown and become an integral part of what we do.
The movement from significant Government investment into austerity, has taught us a great deal about questions of value, impact, implementation, how organisations learn, build strategy and make decisions. Read more about our research and learning consultancy
Working in and with communities in South and North London
In Hackney and Lewisham, we ran numerous locally commissioned employability programmes so in 2010 we invested heavily in scaling our support for economically excluded people with the new Work Programme.
This work meant we developed roots in Lambeth and Southwark and deepened our knowledge of the needs of people in East London. It also taught us a lot about the strengths (and weaknesses) of payments-by-results as a mechanism of public policy funding.
We still offer employment and advice services in North and South London
Understanding and supporting marginalised communities
Community inclusion work
In 2016 we took on a small service in Islington to support families who did not speak English engage with their child’s school. We grew that work beyond Islington and beyond schools to support families with their English, understanding of local services and social issues like parenting, wellbeing.
It taught us lots about the role of language and refugees in community development, and directly led to us developing a highly successful programme for refugees and migrants. Read more about RISE
Addressing local priorities through social action
Place Based Social Action
The Place Based Social Action is jointly funded DCMS and the National Lottery Community Fund. It provides approximately £4.5 million funding to enable people, communities, local non-statutory organisations and the statutory sector to work collaboratively to create and take action on a shared vision for the future of their place.
This programme was the first time Renaisi combined evaluation expertise to our place-based experiences, exploring new methods and new insights. Renaisi is the evaluation and learning partner for the programme to 2024.
Shaping place-based systemic change work
Place Based Systems Change Community
Building on our long-term interest in place, we worked with Save the Children UK and partners to explore how to best manage funds to support place-based systemic change.
Shaping how place-based working is understood and implemented across the UK is a significant strategic direction for us in the coming years.
Inquiry into what it takes to change a system
Renaisi has always believed in the power of place to support people to thrive. Over 25 years, we learned what it takes to improve a place and from there, what it takes to change systems in a place.
We’ve drawn on all our learning to date to develop the tool for our systems change inquiry. It includes three themes that we think are critical to systemic change:
- Learning about the system and your role in it
- Deep and active collaboration
- Changing what’s valued and accepted
A solution to the challenges of evaluating place-based systems change
Renaisi’s new model combines our wealth of experience in developmental learning and evaluation approaches with ‘realist evaluation’ methods, such as contribution analysis to assess the causal links between a programme and the outcomes – adding more rigour to the overall method, without losing the critical learning about the process.
In addition to this our model embeds methods that are participatory and inclusive and proportionate.