Partnership Benefits

What our partners say about us!

We asked strategic partners to share their feedback on the partnership. We also asked how they would rate themselves in key leadership skills, both before joining the Strategic Partnership Committee and now (Autumn 2022).

 “I have definitely benefited from being part of the BCF strategic partnership. I have worked collaboratively with many different organisations for many years. This particular partnership, however, gave me the opportunity to develop this with organisations I had not worked with before. It has enabled me to forge new working relationships with organisations and strengthen existing relationships. It has enabled me to gain increased knowledge in relation to different perspectives whilst establishing that we all have the same goals. Gaining different perspectives from a diverse group of organisations has increased my knowledge and understanding as a Strategic Leader. Alongside developing new working relationships with different organisations the partnership sessions on diversifying income were extremely useful and as a result of these the different methods of securing income have been incorporated into my organisational plans for the future. Fundraising, outside of the usual applying for tenders and grants, was identified as a huge gap for my organisation within the analysis survey. I now have greater knowledge in relation to diversifying the income of my organisation thanks to the partnership. With the support of the Strategic Partnership Lead I have been able to gain more in-depth knowledge on how to address this and have formulated a plan on how to move this forward within my organisation in line with a new programme I am developing. Being a member of the partnership has enabled me to assess the impact of challenges more fully as I have been able to gain different perspectives from my own. My organisation has definitely benefited from being a member of this partnership and I would recommend joining the partnership to others.”

Stephanie Hammond

Steps to Work

“Since entering the 3rd Sector industry by accident 8 years ago, the BCF strategic partnership has been the most beneficial one that I have been involved with to date. The reason being that it offers support and collaboration with diverse range of local organisations that experience similar issues, despite us all having a very different background and specialised services. The information sharing, openness and strategic support has been fantastic in terms of increasing knowledge and understanding of the barriers that we all face, especially in the ever changing needs of the community, funding landscape and relationships with local government and health services. This partnership also enabled us to develop relationships with other organisations outside our community and targeted audience, allowing us to increasing awareness about the barriers that our client group face on daily basis and gain invaluable networking opportunities. The partnership sessions such as diversifying income, gap analysis and how to become a project lead has provided us with extra tools to counter issues that threatens the existence of our organisation resulting in us adjusting our organisational and fundraising strategies accordingly. It has also enabled me to develop my strategical, financial, and partnership building skills which has in turn given me new confidence to lead or partner with other organisations. The partnership has shown me that we are not alone in these chaotic times where marginalised groups are often overlooked, ignored and dismissed. Together we are stronger. I would definitely recommend joining the partnership”

Chris Beech

Zebra Access

"Setting up the partnership from scratch, seeing and understanding the processes and being part of the development and agreement of how the partnership will develop have all benefitted me, developing my skills as an individual. The joint thinking and working together has also improved our organisational work as we now think bigger and wider than Walsall, and this steer and support is vital for the growth of our organisation. We are not afraid to widen our offer as an organisation and look at areas of growth that previously we may not have done. We are looking at our sustainability model and facing the post COVID world with a sustainable plan to stabilise and ride the wave. Our sustainability is a priority to continue to support residents and all the work we do and also maintain staff positions. The Partnership has given us tools and knowledge for this and reinforces some of the things we already do and consider it in a different light. We are able to have a voice as a partnership that we can’t have as an individual organisation and work together to explore solutions to the greater challenges for charities. The partnership also has given opportunities for our organisation that without the strength of working together we may not have considered. The partnership members have differing strengths and this commitment to share knowledge is invaluable as we grow as an organisation. We have had a significant period of significant change within the organisation and the Gap Analysis Survey helped us to focus on areas of need and our gaps as an organisation. We are currently looking at the final stages of changes within the organisation to help us through the next period of time which we foresee to be a difficult time in terms of funding. I have found the Capacity Building sessions really useful. Some of them have reinforced work we are already doing and others have been beneficial for thinking differently about how we build capacity further for the organisation. The knowledge and skills of Nikki-Dee, the Strategic Partnership Lead has supported us all within the partnership, as they have brought external resource and personal experience to enhance the partnership and increase individual’s knowledge. Previously, although aware of the bigger picture, I didn’t put myself into these strategic level conversations as much as I do now. I realise that being involved and dedicating some time to this is vital at this level of working. Even more so now that we are all facing unprecedented change to our charities. Because of increased understanding and awareness of the bigger picture, I believe I more quickly grasp the information and ideas put forward. Although the CEO/Trustees have ultimate decision making I am more able to put together and be confident around planned strategic moves for the organisation and give depth of reasoning. My ability to work collaboratively has improved a lot now I’ve been involved with this partnership. In my position in the organisation I regularly need to provide a breadth of objective data in a variety of formats to evidence outputs and benefit, whether in terms of delivery or finance. My strategic experience has given me a greater level of knowledge and understanding in this area. This has been enhanced from the training and development provided through the Partnership and Nikki-Dee.”

Sue Evans

Manor Farm Community Association

"Before joining this partnership, we had routinely been frustrated at the end of our community projects; where we had successfully delivered pieces of work with big impact, a lot of effort and valuable learning, only to lose all the positive momentum quite abruptly at the end of the project. Through this BCF partnership, we found other partners who shared our frustrations and who also aspired to sustain and enhance community impact. Our partnership started quite organically from a genuine sector need, but then with an experienced strategic partnership lead, we managed to complete large scale partnership work that consolidated fragmented pieces of work in a very structured way. We found coming together, our sector gained a larger and more meaningful voice, that could highlight sector issues and showcase potential solutions. Our partnership work was a lot more in-depth and through this we developed better relationships and understanding of previous acquaintances and new partners. It became a lot easier to share and access support from people that we had personally done so much work with. As voluntary sector organisations, both small and large we had all experienced a difficult “firefighting” environment, where we found, we were constantly reacting to urgent and unexpected issues, whereas this partnership process, brought back a strategic focus, forcing us to take time out and focus on the bigger picture. There have also been many collaborative benefits, where sharing the work across the partnership in working groups has allowed us to do more work that we would not have considered to undertake ourselves. Certain expertise’s have emerged in the group, which has allowed for a higher quality of work. Our diverse services, collectively offer a huge menu of services. Sharing expertise and resource has again enabled development of individual organisational capacity. As an individual involved in the partnership, I feel I have benefitted from getting to learn and experience strategic planning, consolidating values, confirmation of strategic priorities, governance structuring, marketing and branding. Also, following the growth of a structured partnership from inception, through strategic structure, marketing brand and capacity building has really been an invaluable experience. As an operational manager I also got a chance to understand strategy and strategic skills. I got a chance to attend many BCF organisational skills workshops and have now used many new and useful strategic tools, including, organisational gap analysis, risk management spreadsheets and a diverse range of social media channels, including LinkedIn for the very first time. I have become exposed to new perspectives, that I had not considered before, for example diversifying income through donation strategy. For TLC College the BCF partnership has involved a great deal of time and effort, that is admittedly a scarce resource at the moment, however when we take a step back to view the achievements, we can see the benefits, skills, relationships, opportunities and collaborative impact that have emerged have been well worth the effort. We are still in our infancy but have a genuine will to create a structure that can sustain sincere and quality community services long into the future."

Kalpna Joshi

TLC College

“Personally, I have gained a lot from the BCF strategic group. It’s given me access to a range of people that I perhaps would not have meet myself. I have learnt from them, from the way they present and discuss a point to how they interpret information and make a case back. This access to others has aided my own learning. Working on a strategic board as well, has introduced me to new ways of thinking and methodologies that I have put in place within my own area of responsibility. I have also learnt a lot about how other organisations work and how their aims and objectives fit with in the strategic goals of our partnership. We have benefited as an organisation too, as we are now working closer with a number of the partners, having realised how closely our aims and objectives fit, and the crossover we have. There are things I have learnt and skills I have developed as part of being in the partnership that I have taken back to my organisation. Taking part in the GAP analysis helped me take a more objective look at my department and how it fits with in the wider context of the organisation. It has certainly made me think more about the funding landscape and what we have to do to secure our long term futures. It has been useful to learn about different methods and ideas people have about fundraising, being a lead organisation for a collaborative funding bid etc. and how to overcome some of these barriers in your own thinking as well as within the organisation. I am more aware now of the larger picture and the importance of a strong third sector. I now talk more and more about the sector - not just our own organisation to funders and other organisations. Working with such a range of people, I have found I do listen more now, and think about what is being said, and how. I’ve learnt that sometimes it’s not just about the big money. Sometimes it’s about where that could lead, and this is something I have very much taken on board. I have increased my commercial acumen and we have all learnt to look for different funding that we wouldn’t have done before. Overall, I think more in a strategic way now, not operational, so I consider what the benefit is firstly not the how.”

Steve Bayliss

Refugee and Migrant Centre

“Being part of the BCF Strategic Partnership Group has been immensely beneficial to me personally. It has been informative and instructive and has provided me with a vast array of techniques and processes that will stand me in good stead for the future. But above all, it has brought me into contact with individuals and organisations (some big and others of similar size to ourselves) who had similar aims and objectives, and who were grappling with the same issues and concerns as ourselves. The partnership provided me with new insights into strategic thinking and the importance of planning strategically. One major benefit for me has been the cross-fertilisation of ideas and the different perspectives that each partner brought to bear during group discussions. It helps to view things from different perspectives. It has benefited our organisation in some respects because the wealth of information and understanding gleaned from being part of the group has been invaluable. Due to lack of available resources our focus has been the delivery of funded short-term projects and ensuring that agreed outcomes were achieved. Because of this, we haven’t been able to take action to fill the gaps identified in the Gap Analysis we completed last year. We have found it extremely difficult to apply fully all the many ideas and tools gained whilst at the same time managing/delivering projects and being responsible for the overall operation of the organisation. The problem we have encountered is one of size and resources. Whilst many of our approaches to doing business have been impacted through the application tools and ideas, we have not been able to sustain their implementation long-term. What I mean is, that they have not been bedded into daily operations and we sometimes seem to be firefighting and trying to catch up rather than a steady-state approach as we progress. We have however found the capacity building meetings we have attended extremely useful. In particular, the Funding Stream diversification has been very useful, especially in the way it was presented and the awareness of the many and varied ways that we could supplement our Income through fundraising activities rather than depending solely on Grants which are limited in their application. Sustainability is at the heart of our thinking and these sessions have proved invaluable to us.”

Levene Bruce

DCFA - Impact Training

“It has been an eye opener to learn from and work with other organisations. Through Black Country Futures we have had the opportunity to listen to the experiences and delivery of other organisations and share good practice. Within the partnership it is beneficial to learn from others. Being part of this partnership has benefitted us and enabled us to be part of the opportunities and also involved in discussions around the strategic planning. It is also interesting to learn of the challenges each partner faces in their own areas. It has enabled me to think bigger picture in terms of the wider Black Country, rather than one locality, which is something embedded within our strategy as an organisation and how we can connect with other groups and entities regionally. It is good for the organisations to be part of a collective and joint partnership as there is strength in numbers all striving to achieve a common goal. It has also helped increase our profile and create more awareness of our organisation across the Black Country than we had prior. Our organisation has also learnt more about other organisations and also found in a general way we are not alone and face similar challenges, whereby together we can overcome. Our strategy was developed prior to the gap analysis, however, there have been some useful questions from the Gap Analysis that has helped inform our strategic planning and the development of the organisation. It helped us to think deeper into some of the practical and operational elements of how Bilston Resource Centre deliver its plan effectively.”

Adam Bhardwaj

Bilston Resource Centre

“I have benefited from being part of the BCF Strategic Partnership through networking and delivery of the BCF project. Our organisation has benefitted through delivery of the BCF project, networking and increased awareness of opportunities available to us. We used the information gathered in the Gap Analysis to help plan our strategy and shape our development during the last year to an extent, as it fed into a wider consultation process with staff and customers. Being in the partnership has increased the scope of my contacts and therefore added to my ‘big picture thinking’. Being involved in joint bids with the partnership has been useful. Working collaboratively on BCF and discussions around other opportunities has been of benefit. Most use for me comes from networking and sharing good practice.”

Peter Hoarle

Black Country Housing Group

"We feel that being part of the BFC Strategic Partnership group has benefited us in a number of ways. It has given us the opportunity to meet other partners, get a better understanding of what they do and more importantly build strong effective working relationships with them. We have been able to stand back and think more strategically, learn from others, and consider different ways of working. Although we have known the other partners for some time we have got a much better understanding of each other’s strengths and now frequently explore other areas where we can work together. We continue to learn from each other, share ideas and explore opportunities where we can work together to enhance the support we provide. Being part of the partnership has meant that we have been able to consider other ways of working/funding streams. As an organisation we have increased confidence in exploring opportunities which previously we would not have considered. We are ensuring we utilise the strengths of partners and services and that we do not duplicate, but diversify. We identified that post ESF there would be a huge gap and the impact this would have on our communities. We developed a strategy to inform and ensure all strategic referral agencies were made aware of the impact this would have. By having the confidence and commercial acumen it is empowering to saying “no” to avenues that could be attractive at face value but not viable due to current circumstances and capacity. We have increased our skills in delivering presentations to partners, voicing challenges of the third sector in appropriate ways that are reaching people that need the key messages to be heard objectively. We have also increased our lateral thinking about funding changes and gaps, but in terms of been proactive not pessimistic. Taking part in the Gap analysis gave us the opportunity to stand back and think objectively about our organisation as a whole- not just the different delivery arms. By viewing strategically and considering the future landscape we recognised areas to strengthen and over the last 12 months have made many changes. For example we have a Bid writer, are evidencing our strength (SROI), focused on influencing, and would consider being a lead organisation. We have also increased our social media footfall and have access to our own press contact. Based on the benefits we have had, we would recommend being part of the Black Country Futures Partnership to others.”

Sue Hurley and Kate Beale - BEM

Just Straight Talk

"The strategic partnership has really shown itself to be a valuable resource and worthwhile investment of people's time. People are getting benefits because they are putting the time and energy in.  It's easy to underestimate how important peer-to-peer discussions and collaboration are, especially when so many of us are so time poor. Alongside this we are all familiar in the sector with forums and groups where it feels like nothing happens as a result of conversations and they just become a talking shop. The partnership has remained committed and focused on ensuring it achieves it's aims, and has truly active collaborators, working together to co-design, co-produce, and co-deliver activity. It's also really important that we have this time to step back from our hectic day-to-day roles, and reflect, consider and strategize. To share knowledge and learning, to discuss challenges and hear from your peers who are in the same position can all help to both build your capacity and to strengthen your resilience and reinvigorate you. Some of our conversations have by necessity gone over difficult ground and bleak outlooks, but working together has helped us to refocus on what's most important and speak as a collective on key issues, on behalf of ourselves and the people we support in our communities. When we started working together many of the partners shared with me how difficult it was to switch gears, from operational to strategic, and how hard it was to make time to do this strategic thinking. Together, we have navigated this, and now partners find this more possible, and have seen the value and benefits of doing this. As the Strategic Lead for the partnership, I have delivered direct strategic support and training to partners but  peer-to-peer learning , using the vast skills and knowledge across the board has been a vital part of this. Working together also means we can deliver multi-agency projects, and deliver a greater variety of support to more people over a wider area. This has been evidenced through the Black Country Futures project, funded by the National Lottery Community Fund and the impact has been enormous. We can also access opportunities together that we may not be able to access as individual organisations. One of our more recent collaborative projects has been to share with decision makers the impact that funding decisions have on our local community support. It's great to be able to raise our voices together and showcase the scale and impact of our support services and why they are so needed."

Nikki-Dee Haddleton

Black Country Futures Partnership Strategic Lead