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What’s new in our Social Impact work

Please note that The Robertson Trust has published its new Giving Strategy. This sets out the priorities we will have when awarding funds through our open grants programme. The existing application form and guidelines can still be used until July 31st. In line with our existing procedures, we will aim to assess and present all applications received by this date to our September Board meeting. In the event that we are unable to do so, your application may be held until our November meeting. In such cases a member of staff will contact you and provide any assistance required to realign your application with the new Giving Strategy. Find out all you need to know here.

It’s been a busy start to 2019 for the Social Impact team and I’m pleased to say there has been movement across several of our themes, both in terms of learning from existing projects and the development of new partnerships.

As many will know, unlike our responsive Open Awards programme (managed by the Giving Team), my team takes a more targeted approach and does not generally seek unsolicited applications for awards; instead, prioritising the proactive building of strong, fruitful relationships with key players in our themes of interest.
Each of these has been identified, following thorough research, as areas in which we may be able to make difference. We are particularly interested in opportunities to take an ‘early action’ approach and aim to produce learning which can help inform broader policy and practice in Scotland.
Collaboration is key to the Social Impact team’s work. We seek to encourage conversation and learn from experts in specific fields, including those with lived experience, and, through this, to develop an understanding of how we can play a part in driving change.
While I've looked at some of the most recent developments below, as per our new communications approach, we will be providing regular updates across the year in our social impact work and I would encourage all those with an interest to sign up to our mailing list or follow us @RobertsonTrust.

Driving forward with Social Bridging Finance
Unquestionably our most active area of work in recent months has been around the development of the Social Bridging Finance (SBF) funding model. This has been designed with the intention of enabling public services to innovate and move to greater preventative spend through bringing together a working partnership of public sector, third sector and independent funders. The principles of the model have already been tested in a couple of projects (most notably MCR Pathways, which our Head of Scholarship, Gordon Hunt, blogged about last month) but 2019 is the year that we really take the SBF journey forward.
We will shortly be announcing the details of the final of three demonstration projects which will use this type of grant funding. The first two were agreed by our committee last week, with awards totalling £1.3 million going to Pause for their work in in Dundee in partnership with Tayside Council on Alcohol, and Children First for their Family Well-Being service across all GP surgeries in East Renfrewshire. As part of the process of bringing these to committee, the team has started to develop a range of resources including an Organisation Health Check and guidance for third sector organisations and their partners seeking SBF. We are commissioning an evaluation of the model to ascertain whether it works as we think (and hope) it will and then to establish what makes the difference and where challenges lie.  
We have been sharing our journey far and wide and encouraging others to join and learn alongside us. We were delighted to see SBF featured in Dutch magazine, Social Finance NL, which describes Scotland as being 'the motherland of Social Bridging Finance'. The Ferd Foundation in Norway, meanwhile, met with us to discuss the model and is now looking at opportunities with Oslo City Council. We also presented the model to a delegation of Chinese philanthropists who were visiting Scotland and, most recently, delivered a webinar for the Improvement Service (view here). 

Updates in our Improving the Life Chances of Children and Young People theme
At a thematic level, Improving Life Chances for Children and Young People has seen the most activity over the past three months. This area of work grew from our interest in criminal justice where much of our support was for young men serving a sentence in Polmont YOI; both support for their time in prison and most importantly, through the gate and back into their community. This work fed into the Reducing Reoffending Change Fund which we delivered in partnership with the Scottish Government and provided mentoring support for women and young men in the justice system. As our focus is on taking a preventative approach we realised we needed to support organisations working to keep people out of the justice system in the first place. Our recent work has covered areas including young people at risk of disengaging from school, those who have experienced Adverse Childhood Experiences and those with care experience.  
Through the Dundee Includem Raising Attainment Projectwe have supported Includem, a third sector organisation that provides intensive, bespoke support to young people and families in challenging circumstances, to work with young people who are disengaging from school and their families across all eight secondary schools in Dundee. This has been a challenging project for all involved and we will share the full journey and outcomes achieved once the final evaluation is ready, which is expected to be in the spring. Interim evaluations have highlighted the importance of involving the wider family in the work and also evidenced the challenges of integrating a third sector organisation into delivery within a school environment. We recently pulled together a short summary document of the findings so far and this can be viewed here
Meanwhile, another project which has garnered significant interest over the past 12 months has been our work to reframe care experience and the concept of care with the FrameWorks Institute, in partnership with the Life Changes Trust, Centre for Excellence with Looked After Children in Scotland (CELCIS) , Scottish Government and William Grant Foundation. While phase one of this project helped to build understanding of the public perception of the care system and the young people who experience it, phase two is looking at how those working in the sector and with lived experience can communicate in ways which avoid further entrenching unhelpful attitudes and beliefs. It is a hugely complex area of work and nobody describes it better than FrameWorks CEO, Nat Kendall Taylor, who can be heard talking the project here.  

Introducing our Community Wellbeing programme
A new programme which we are developing at the moment is loosely called Community Wellbeing and aims to work with a small number of locally-based organisations to use knowledge of ACEs and trauma-informed approaches to improve the well-being of children and families in their communities. The programme will start with a learning period and time for organisations to work alongside us and experienced practitioners in the field to develop their plans.

A key part of this work will be supporting communities to deliver change for themselves. As part of the research for this programme I have been reading a range of interesting articles including Social Power published by the Sheila McKechnie Foundation. This looks at how to use the full potential of civil society and how we as funders can help unlock “Social Power”. This work will be looked at in more detail at the Corra Foundation’s Change Makers event on the 28th March 

First steps with System Change
By the nature of our Social Impact work, often some of the most useful learning emerges from situations which haven't quite gone to plan. With this in mind, we recently produced a paper sharing learning from our experience of supporting the Transforming Pathways programme which was co-designed and delivered in partnership with the CELCIS at the University of Strathclyde. The programme was established to improve the well-being of children and families living on the edges of care in three specific Local Authority areas in Scotland.
Primarily, our experience showed us that systems change work is difficult, time consuming, frustrating and messy. There are no rules to follow and the processes and outcomes are uncertain. It is a difficult space within which to work and a huge degree of patience is required. All partners need to agree what success will look like and believe that the prize at the end is worth the effort of getting there.
Our learning paper details some of these challenges and lessons, and will hopefully be of particular interest to other funders interested in working this way.

Changing Lives Through Sport and Physical Activity
Finally, over the last month, we have seen significant movement in the Changing Lives Through Sport and Physical Activity programme, a partnership with sportscotland, Scottish Government and Spirit of 2012. In excess of £1 million has now been awarded to 17 partnership organisations, each of which is aiming to deliver on the four Changing Lives themes; Sport for Inclusion, Health and Wellbeing, Skills and Communities. 

Meanwhile, an extensive workforce development programme has now been commissioned. This aims to facilitate increased knowledge, skills, capacity and resources for the sporting workforce across Scotland and help it deliver impactful services in their communities with the aim of bringing about positive change for individuals and communities. Sport for Change has been a key area of interest for the Trust for many years and we look forward to sharing updates and learning throughout the duration of this exciting programme.


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