The many benefits of local Compact networking

blog authorLocal Compacts can often cover quite small areas – for example, a district or borough council might have its own local Compact.

This can lead to multiple local Compacts in one large regional area, and the people involved in each Compact often don’t come together to meet and learn from each other.

However, here at Compact Voice, we have seen real benefits in areas that have a regional network established: in the West Midlands and the South West, for example. In these areas, people involved in local Compacts meet – either online or in person – and discuss issues relating to their Compacts, share experiences and generally keep the Compact on the agenda in their partnership working.

Because of some of the benefits we could see in other areas, we decided to help set up a network in the North East of England.

The first meeting took place in May 2012, and had only a limited number of attendees, but the purpose of the network was agreed – it would be a place where examples of good practice could be shared, along with experiences.

It was also agreed that the network would be a good place to gather evidence of Compact-related issues from across the North East, and that the network would aim to become a collective voice for the region, and that it would help facilitate strong partnership working between sectors.

Since that first meeting, the network has met a further three times - but in between there is regular contact via a virtual email network. Membership has now increased, and there are representatives from both sectors across the 12 districts in the North East, as well as the regional Council for Voluntary Service.

The Office for Civil Society (OCS) is represented through their Local Intelligence Team and the Localities Partner from the Department for Communities and Local Government - who covers the North East - is also part of the Network.

The content of the meetings has been really varied: at one meeting, representatives from Sunderland shared how they’d set up an e-learning programme to teach new staff about their local Compact. The project was turned into a case study, and then shortlisted for a Compact Award in 2012 for its innovative approach to raising the profile of the Sunderland Compact. County Durham also launched an e-learning programme about their Compact during Compact Week 2012.

The network meetings are useful for sharing national policy updates, as well as local issues. Gateshead provided a presentation to the North East network recently that discussed the purpose, objectives and principles of the Gateshead Compact - how it links to community development, volunteering, commissioning, promoting equality and tackling disadvantage - other members also shared what was happening in their areas.

The Compact has been around a long time, and has had varying degrees of success in the North East. However, I believe the network has had a real impact in the region. 

Now that the network is established, members are very proactive and there is a willingness to remain involved and to offer help and support to each other, something we feel confident will continue even after Compact Voice are no longer involved.

Networks needn’t involve a huge time commitment, and can work just as effectively online as off.
Compact Voice has an online map of every local Compact on our website, with up-to-date contact details for each.

Why not contact a few other people in your region, and see if some of the benefits we’ve seen in the South West, North East and West Midlands might work for you too?

Compact Voice are also here to help you to establish such a network, so if it sounds like something you would find useful – get in touch.

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