Farewell from our Engagement Officer, Adam Pickering

adam pickeringAfter an eventful two years as Engagement Officer at Compact Voice, I will soon be leaving to take up a Policy Officer role at Charities Aid Foundation (CAF), where I’ll be working to improve the conditions for philanthropic giving in the UK and internationally. It’s a great opportunity for me, but I’ll look back at my time with Compact Voice fondly.

I joined the team in October 2010 - soon after the Coalition Government had announced a renewal of the Compact, swingeing cuts to public sector budgets and the winding up of the Commission for the Compact. I therefore experienced somewhat of a baptism of fire. But seeing the dedication of my new team and Compact Voice members in driving both the national and local Compacts forward, and their willingness to help me get up-to-speed, I quickly came to relish the challenge and enjoy my role.

In working with local contacts around the country, I have developed a deep admiration for the capacity of people, in both sectors, to go above and beyond their official duties to ensure that the Compact underpins the way that partners work together for the benefit of communities. Whether contributing to guidance, helping me put together case studies, inviting me to speak at events or just keeping me up-to-date on local developments - I have always found our members to be generous with their time and extremely knowledgeable.

Our engagement strategy has evolved and changed a great deal over the past two years. In the absence of the Commission for the Compact and inspectorate regimes such as those carried out by the Audit Commission and performance benchmarking initiatives such as Local Area Agreements under the previous government, it has become increasingly important that we are able to build up a picture of how local Compacts are performing.

The first step in meeting this challenge was to extend our geographical reach by appointing two Engagement Development Officers to cover the North and Midlands/South West regions. Cath Cook and Vicky Redding have worked tirelessly to support Compacts in their regions and to feed information back to Compact Towers in London, and I know that their hard work is appreciated on the ground.

To get truly comprehensive comparative data we needed to think big. Our first annual survey of local Compacts in 2011 provided a useful health check for local Compacts and revealed that while implementation was patchy, support for Compact was (and at 82% in 2012 remains) incredibly strong. In the 2012 survey we had responses representing 77% of local Compacts giving us the most complete picture of local Compacts ever amassed since the first local Compacts were launched in the early 2000s.

I am proud to say that after two years of annual surveys, we have been able to collect, analyse and report extensive benchmarking data on local Compacts that we are using to influence policy both locally and nationally.

Perhaps the most significant shift in focus for the Engagement Team has been our prioritisation of the production of case studies. Local Compacts have developed differently from one area to another and often in relative isolation. There are obvious advantages for Compact groups in learning what has worked for other local Compacts and we have worked hard to facilitate such a sharing of good practice. The publication of case studies often helps to embed good practice by rewarding partners with good publicity, so it’s a genuine win-win for all concerned.

Another key area of focus for the Engagement Team in my time with Compact Voice has been our focus on providing in-depth support for local Compacts through our Priority Areas Programme (PAP). Like most good things, the idea of the PAP is essentially very simple. Where we have identified a way in which we can use our knowledge to benefit a local Compact, and where there is a will amongst our local contacts to work with us, then that is a potential PAP project. Though it is impossible for three people to undertake such projects in every area, the PAP has allowed us to have a significant impact on certain areas and to test whether what works for one local Compact, works for others too.

So, to summarise, I have seen an awful lot of changes during my time at Compact Voice - to the policy landscape, the voluntary sector’s working environment and to local partnerships. However, despite all of those, I’m glad to leave a legacy of so many solid examples of the excellent work being done across the country to improve relationships between the sectors. I am really pleased to have been able to help (and be helped by) so many dedicated, committed people.

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