In February the Our Society Our Solutions Group invited members of the Local Authority’s Corporate Board, and the Leader of the Council, to a joint meeting to explore the potential for collaborating on projects which would leave to assets and services in Dudley Borough being managed in a holistic way. The meeting took place on Friday 24th February and was attended by Our Society Our Solutions Group members, Our Society Steering Group members and John Polychronakis (DMBC Chief Executive), Jane Porter (DMBC Acting Director of Children’s Service), Valerie Little (Director of Public Health) and John Millar (DMBC Director of the Urban Environment).
The objectives of meeting were:
- To share the work that the Our Society Our Solutions Group have been undertaking and to explore how it relates to the work of the Local Authority (specifically regarding Localism and transformation)
- To propose and discuss a process for taking MASH (Managing Assets and Services Holistically) projects forward collaboratively
- To agree who could initially be involved in MASH projects and when activities will take place.
A summary of main points and agreements from the meeting are provided below.
- Our Society Our Solutions groups do not primarily want funding from Dudley Council, it is about collaboration, having good communication and dialogue and better sharing and using of resources together;
- The Council is open to ideas from people and groups now and in future years regarding the efficient use of budgets and the provision of services, including collaboratively;
- Regarding the Community Right to Challenge and consequent procurement process, the Council prefers to contract with smaller and more local organisation (e.g. VCSF organisations, local business, social enterprises) rather than giving contracts to large national organisations;
- Contracting with VCFS organisations presents a different relationship dynamic that needs to be considered by voluntary organisations;
- Our Society Our Solutions organisations want to show the value of their services to Dudley Council through methods that capture qualitative information, stories of success and the positive changes made to peoples lives (rather than just statistics and ticking boxes);
- The Council is supportive of voluntary organisations and council services being co-located within buildings to promote multi-use, collaboration and financial savings;
- The Council’s Volunteering Strategy could be refreshed to move it in the direction of a networking / matching service to enable mutual exchange of skills / knowledge / time between voluntary and community groups and council staff (recognising the sensitivities around job displacement);
- The Council supports the development of mechanisms to develop collaborative solutions to issues such as budget savings and service improvements;
- All agreed that the Council cannot provide all the solutions to the issues we face and there must be an element of self-help. It was recognised however, that citizens and community groups sometimes need support and removal of barriers to help themselves and that the council will still have a major role to play in providing unlocking this capacity.
- Due to time constraints and the level of information exchange and discussion taken place, it was agreed that it would not be possible to make much progress with the second and third objective for the meeting, though this had some airing in the main body of the meeting.
- John Polychronakis, Jane Porter, Valerie Little and John Millar suggested that they to come together again with the Our Society Our Solutions group to develop a joint plan to take forward a few important areas of work highlighted in the discussions. (A further meeting is planned for the second half of April and will be open to a wider group of participants.)
Photos and twitter discussion from the evening have been Storified here.