Navigating through the East, the South East and local Compacts

image of Monika, blog authorI joined Compact Voice six months ago as an Engagement Development Officer covering the South East and East of England.

I felt it was an auspicious year to arrive, as we’re celebrating 15 years of the Compact in 2013. I started my career as a project officer taking minutes at a local Compact development group back in the early 2000’s - and like the Compact, I’ve grown and changed a bit since then too.

I’ve been busy these last few months talking to contacts across the East and South East, and finding out about local Compacts across those regions: are they active, being used, still relevant?

Today’s local policy landscape is awash with new structures and concepts. The Compact is not alone. It’s accompanied (to name but a few) by social value, localism, civic renewal, health and social care reforms, new directions in commissioning and procurement, and many more. 

I’ve heard the Compact accused of not having teeth, and of being abandoned in the practitioner’s toolkit. However, I’ve certainly seen some great examples of the Compact being very much a relevant and useful tool, helping to facilitate some really great partnership working across a regional area.

In May, I attended the Essex Compact Forum 2013. On this grey spring morning, over 30 delegates from across the public, statutory and voluntary and community sectors in Essex gathered together at the YMCA in Chelmsford to talk all things Compact.

Kevin Curley was in attendance as the keynote speaker. Acting agent provocateur, he led an active and engaged workshop exploring the future role of the Compact in Essex. The workshop was aptly titled ‘If not the Compact, then what’? It definitely ignited much discussion.

Most interestingly, I found that the talk across the breakout groups all seemed to centre on the value and relevance of the Compact. It was agreed that there was no alternative that stood up to take its place. Even if at times the Compact locally may seem to be having limited effect, delegates agreed that its presence nonetheless provides a vital voice for the sector. The consequence of not having it would be far worse.

The discussion also covered engaging with Clinical Commissioning Groups and involvement in commissioning criteria, and other key messages which emerged included:

  • Continuing to build and promote Compact awareness,
  • Framing the Compact within the legal/statutory context in a single page document, and using this to take out to partners to reaffirm the purpose and value of Compact as part of a toolkit which includes Public Law, and
  • Development of meaningful engagement and representation with partners, some of whom are not currently engaged or aware of Compact working.

Essex also launched their new Compact E-learning Tool at the event, a project which we recently outlined in one of our good practice case studies. If you’re interested in finding out more about how partners in Essex developed an online learning tool about their Compact, do take a look at the case study.

Nearing its 15 year anniversary, it seems to me that the Compact remains both intrinsically relevant and a powerful tool in partnership working in many areas, not just in Essex. 

This is perhaps particularly important when the rapidly changing policy landscape is continuing to challenge both the public and voluntary and community sectors. The message is: where it’s used well and often, it’s a tool that can have a really positive impact on local relationships.

If you’re based in the south east or east of England and would like to hear more about getting your Compact ‘off the shelf’ or  hear about what’s working well in other areas, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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