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Managing a GB-wide local authority practice network

”Implemented best practice following attending meetings or receiving written material that challenged my own thinking. Listened to developing themes across the country which led to a Critical Friend appointment of Crisis. Gave me space to think strategically.” Local Authority Practice Network member

December 2020 - Present

Challenge

Our work on the HRA Implementation Project brought into sharp focus the benefits of bringing local authorities together to discuss, reflect, collaborate and learn. They told us the opportunity to share challenges and solutions with their peers was a real positive, and we saw the cultural benefits of our quarterly meetings within their teams. When the HRA Implementation project ended, we wanted to establish a wider practice network that will benefit from and inform the next phase of our work.

Goal 3 of our current strategy is to demonstrate that homelessness can be ended in local areas. We want to evidence how we can influence system change across Great Britain in order to end homelessness in more places, not just manage it. With the network we hope to develop a group of local authorities that will join us on this journey; testing and learning with us and their peers along the way.

Solution

We brought together a collective of 22 local authorities to build on and continue the positive experiences that coming together can bring. It is a diverse group with a wide geographic spread and a real mix of authority types and sizes. We wanted to ensure that all voices were heard, and that the mix of authorities facilitated as much learning and sharing of information as possible. All members have a desire to improve their services, support Crisis’s resolve to end homeless and have a willingness to share their work, knowledge and practice openly.

From the outset the network has run monthly Practice Exchange events, selecting topical themes of the moment to discuss as a group. Authorities are encouraged to invite those from their service for whom the topic is most relevant. The meetings run in an “unconference” style which generates open discussion and allows the topic to develop into whatever is most relevant for attendees. We provide informative pre-reads prior to each event to inform discussion.

The network also offers member local authorities:

  • Early opportunities to test and use tools, resources and services we develop as part of our Consultancy Service
  • Direct access to learning and insights from our portfolio of projects across the country
  • Quick access to experienced practitioners to “sense check” ad-hoc questions or queries
  • Access to our digital collaboration space
  • Critical friend support including ongoing service review, performance validation and benchmarking
  • Monthly newsletter
  • Opportunities to get involved in important areas of campaigning and influencing for policy change
  • Support at local events inc. independent brokerage with local partners

Impact

Through all of the network activities, local authorities can gain insight, support, peer learning and reflect on their own services. We continue to learn from our network members, gaining an ever deeper understanding of the challenges faced by statutory homelessness services.

We also continue to build on our existing knowledge and resources including:

  • Access to innovative solutions being trialled and tested
  • Insight into services from different specialisms and grades
  • Testing of our tools and resources prior to general release
  • An understanding of current service pressures
  • Valuable knowledge to help steer our campaign work

Feedback from members demonstrates the value of our practice exchange events:

  • “It is really useful to gain an understanding of other practices and projects etc. that we can implement in our own service.”
  • It provides a “good networking opportunity, exchange of good practice, new learning opportunities . . ."
  • It is really “useful to gain ideas on how other areas operate to push forward your own pathway.”
  • Provides an “understanding of common challenges & solutions in similar areas.”

We have recently completed a review of the network and will be making further changes as we progress through 2022.

Further Reading/ Resources

Introducing our Local Authority Practice Network (blog)

Pre-reads from our practice exchanges, held monthly since Nov 2020 (resource)

Notes from our practice exchanges, held monthly since Nov 2020 (resource)

To find out more about how we can support your local area or organisation, please get in touch.

For media enquiries:

E: media@crisis.org.uk
T: 020 7426 3880

For general enquiries:

E: enquiries@crisis.org.uk
T: 0300 636 1967