Learning when not to do things, to keep things simple

As the ESRC funded ‘Keeping it Simple’ and ‘Sharing the Responsibility’ projects move to the final stage, a morning seminar was held on Friday 7th July at St Chad’s College  to discuss some of the key learning points from the project so far.

This is the first time in the project that public-sector organisations involved in the project have come together with other funding organisations, infrastructure bodies and practicing third sector organisations.

The purpose of the seminar was to discuss topics, including how to disaggregate different types of collaboration ranging from formal contracts, through partnerships, complementary relationships and good neighbourliness.

We also looked at issues surrounding the need for the measurement of impact and the way that contracts define beneficial outcomes of programmes. In the seminar, we had some self-declared ‘impact heretics’ who cast doubt on the value of nailing down project outcomes where this may not be possible or desirable.

The programme will now continue to produce four ‘what makes a difference?’ reports. Each of the short briefings will focus on learning points discussed in the seminar including ‘when not to measure impact’, ‘when partnerships do not need to be formal’, ‘when money isn’t the issue’, and ‘when the focus is the beneficiaries, not the organisations’.

Specially invited attendees at the seminar included:

Charitable Foundations

Rob Williamson, Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland; Clare Watkin and Julie Coxon, Big Lottery Fund; Nikki Crowther, Ballinger Charitable Trust; and, Harriet Stranks, Lloyds Bank Foundation.

Third Sector Organisations

Brendan Hill, Concern, The Mental Health and Wellbeing Group; Mark Davis, Middlesbrough Voluntary Development Agency; Sally Young, Newcastle CVS; Jane Hartley, VONNE; Gillian Peel, Age UK Darlington; Julia Bracknall, Carers Together; and Alisdair Cameron, Launchpad and ReCoCo.

Local Authorities and Health Organisations

Linda Whitfield, Gateshead Council; Natasha Tefler, Darlington Council; Sarah Perkins, Durham and Darlington Foundation Trust; Mark Adams, Redcar and Cleveland Council; and, Andrew Copland, NHS Hartlepool and Stockton CCG.


Professor Tony Chapman, St Chad’s College, Durham University; Professor Fred Robinson, St Chad’s College, Durham University; and, Professor John Mawson, Institute for Local Governance, Durham University.