How do we build a society that prevents problems from occurring rather than one that, as now, copes with the consequences?
It’s a tricky issue.
At the Big Lottery Fund we have been looking at where our Lottery funding has supported groups or projects addressing a long standing issue by taking an early action or preventative approach. We want to see what we can learn as well as find out if our funding is well spent supporting this, often innovative, work.
We know from conversations across the voluntary, community and statutory sectors there is a widespread desire to take action earlier. And we understand that it’s hard. Evidence shows few organisations and partnerships have managed to successfully refocus their activity to deliver preventative activity instead of (or even as well as) current services on a large scale.
Some of the thorny issues are clear:
- the need to continue current services can mean there is often not the time, money, or leadership to collaborate, to deliver a genuine shift towards using more public resources in early action.
- many fantastic individual projects that are successful in taking a preventative approach for a set activity can struggle to be sustained or mainstreamed as their funding draws to a close.
- proving that something did not happen is difficult (rather than there is a problem to solve) often requiring a long term analysis rather than instant results. This in turn causes issues when that organisation has to then compete for funding to continue existing work. There will always be a need to offer services that support people in times of crisis.
However here in Scotland we’d like consider how our Lottery support could encourage the redesign of services concentrating on taking early action, and therefore preventing negative consequences in the future. We are interested as we believe people will live better lives if they avoid the need for intensive support or crisis services at any point.
To do this we know that learning from those who’ve tried this to deliver early action or preventative activity is key to understanding what might work and where significant challenges lie. We would like to better understand ‘what works’ not just with regard to those who benefit in the long term but also what are the key elements that help organisations successfully re focus; moving to a preventative rather than responsive set of services.
In particular we’d like to talk to you if you’ve made this kind of fundamental change and the result has led to improved joint working between agencies, it is has involved meaningful co-production with local communities and end users, or led to a shift in mainstream expenditure.
We’d like to hear about your experiences and see your comments below – so please get in touch.