POP started life as a project of the Zebra Collective. From 2013 to 2017, its focus was on building connections between the Voluntary and Community Sector organisations that existed in Plymouth, and then supporting the sector to influence decision making with an explicit focus on building networks.
When the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation (EFF) began discussions with POP in 2017, the language of creating a ‘21st Century CVS’ (Council for Voluntary Services) was introduced:
“As regards the structural support, we’re keen to explore further the idea of ‘a CVS for the 21st Century’…. Ideas that came up for us were the role of the organisation in brokering, advocacy, coordinating, facilitating new relationships, providing a place for thinking and incubation of ideas, as well as the broader points about being a single point of access and a mechanism for equalising the relationship of the VCS with the local authority. In practice though, what would this look like? We’d encourage you to think flexibly here. … We’re open to hearing thoughts on how the organisation can remain nimble but still have the desired strategic impact.”
– Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, April 2017
The reflections and learning in our work are underpinned by the following beliefs:
- In complex environments, healthy networks and collaboration at all levels are fundamental to achieving social change.
- Values, ethics and ‘the way we do things’ matter.
- Investing in grassroots infrastructure, in diversity and inclusion are both moral and practical imperatives.
- A distributed, inclusive approach to leadership, control and power allows the best solutions to emerge.
- Not everything works well – but the only true failure is to fail to learn and try to do better next time.
This report captures key points and lessons from the last three years since that initial conversation, and then suggests a way forward for the organisation.