National

To create the conditions for an authorising national environment for the change Lankelly Chase wants to see.

What is the area of work?

The purpose of the National portfolio team when set up in January 2020 was to create the conditions for an authorising national environment for the change Lankelly Chase wants to see. We hoped we would do this by:

  • improving the system as it is now mainly through partnerships with national and policy organisations;
  • experimental partnership(s) with national governments – the flagships of these being with the Scottish government and the Robertson Trust;
  • encouraging transformational thinking in the civil service and political parties to develop a narrative of interconnectedness; 
  • understanding race as a system of oppression, through continued partnerships with Synergi, Black Thrive, the Funders for Race Equality and others.

What’s currently happening? 

We shared in the December 2020 Board update that the National portfolio team’s work plan was deeply affected by recent lockdowns and restrictions. Whilst we continued to fund and support partners, we could not lead new areas of growth or develop new partnerships, especially with governments, policy organisations and civil servants. Equally, understanding race as a system of oppression has become central to Lankelly Chase in 2020, not just to the National workstream. It is now part of everyone’s work.

The portfolio team met several times at the end of 2020 and the start of 2021 to consider what we learned over the last year and to decide what next. We have decided to close the National Portfolio Team, closing some of the ongoing work, and moving the work that remains. 

 

What are we learning? 

 

Some of our key insights are:

  • “National” is not a useful container for our work. We started this group thinking that we needed to influence national policy. But having a separate group, as though the other strands of work (How, Who and Place) aren’t influencing national policy, is not helpful because they are, and they should.
  • We did not talk in this group about what is happening on a national level, e.g. Build Back Better. We know that across the country, people are actually trying to think through what is possible politically now and there are alliances we should be building. This has been happening at the level of the workstream, but not across the whole of Lankelly Chase. This is a gap that we need to address.
  • Some place work has been sitting in National, for instance with the Corra Foundation and Localmotion. These are partners leading place approaches in places outside our six areas. Having them here in National separates them from the place partners in an unhelpful way.
  • We are motivated to work with people who are fully engaged in questioning, revealing, dismantling, healing and rebuilding systems so they promote justice, liberation and healing. Not those who are working to improve existing systems, which still oppress. We hold this reflection with a keen awareness that many people working (in our minds) “just” to improve existing systems think that they too are part of truly transforming those systems. We respect and value their work but we hold on to our perspective. We want to focus our energies on transformation, not improvement.
  • The members of this portfolio team are nearly all long standing members of staff, in the senior leadership team. This perhaps suggests to colleagues that only senior leaders colleagues can work with “national” partners or think about policy. This is not true and we shouldn’t have a structure that perpetuates this. The membership may also reflect that some of the work in National is with longer term partners, with whom we feel a sense of shared history and loyalty. This is valuable and it may also be limiting our decisions.
  • This group has in some ways become the “other” portfolio team; interesting work and partnerships that do not fit neatly into other workstreams end up in National. It feels important to retain a space for messiness and we should encourage portfolio teams to feel they can also have messy spaces. 

What next? 

The National portfolio team is closing. Of the work currently held there are:

  • a group of national policy partners with whom we are ending our funding relationships. We are working to do this clearly, respectfully and showing our value for the work. This includes MEAM and Agenda, who we were part of helping to establish. As a group we will continue to meet over 2021 to ensure we hold this process well. 
  • some partners in this group engaged in incredible work with whom we hope to continue working. These include Our Agency, Leeds GATE and Birmingham Pathfinder. Much of this work is place based but not in the places we focus on. Jess is thinking through with the team how we can best support this work, how it might tie into other existing work, and what the boundaries of our engagement should be.
  • The theme of ethnic inequality in mental health that is still important to Lankelly Chase, as shown by our ongoing major commitment to Synergi, Wandsworth Community Empowerment Network and others. But there is not an obvious place for it to be held in our current inquiry set up. It is a field and a sector and we must relate to it as such. Julian and Cathy are the leads for this work and brought this dilemma to the whole team for reflective practice last week. They are considering next steps to bring back to the National team as we wind down. 

As well as closing the National Team, we are establishing an external messaging group for Lankelly Chase. This will meet every two months to look across the whole of our portfolio of work, and all the insights emerging, to ask: “so what do we think now? If we bumped into a minister, what would we say?”. This will form the key national messages for the organisation. We want this group to be fluid, able to think ministerially, non-hierarchical, and with a diversity of views. We suggest having a rotating membership across the team with Julian, Carrina and Alice as permanent members and all other members of the team to join at least once a year. We need to ask whether partners and Trustees should also be part of the revolving membership. 

 

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