Supporting social change
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What we do

Our work is rooted in a commitment to social justice. We translate that commitment to action in a number of different areas:

Participation

Participation is a human right, and it brings better results. Our work started in youth participation, supporting the rights of children and young people to shape the decisions and services that affect their lives. Today we also work on participation processes in many settings, from open government to mental health to user engagement in research.

Community development

Community is vital. Whether its a local neighbourhoods, or a global community of practice, groups discussing and working together are a key force for social change. We work at the grassroots, supporting local planning and delivery, resident leadership, and community campaigning - and at a global level, building networks that bridge between research, policy and practice.

Organisational change

We need social change organisations that are fit for purpose to deliver on their vision and mission. Our work, rooted in years experience with small and large organisations, aims to support them through strategy development, coaching, facilitation, reflection and review.

Social technology

All projects today have a digital dimension. Technology choices should not be an afterthought - but should be a core part of any strategy. Digital tools shape the way projects are delivered and experienced. We connect in-depth research, with accessible explanations and capacity building to support critical, inclusive and effective use of data and digital technology.

How we work

Every project we work on is bespoke: tailored to the needs of the social change organisations we work with. However, we often work in three main roles:

Project design & development

Strategy, planning, facilitation and action for big and small projects. From one-off workshops on project design, to co-designing new initiatives with you, and setting them on a sustainable path to success.

Evaluation & research

Supporting change with insights, analysis, tools and publications. We undertake both short term research commissions and multi-year evaluations. We're committed to participatory research approaches and to shared learning.

Ongoing support

Working with partners over the long-term. We'll provide mentoring, capacity building, support and external expertise and input when you need it most.

Based in the UK, we work right across the country, as well as on international projects. To discuss how Practical Participation could support your work, just drop a line to any of the team below.

The Practical Participation Team

Co-directors

Bill Badham

Bill Badham

Participation & community development

Jennie Fleming

Jennie Fleming

Evaluation & research

Tim Davies

Tim Davies

Open government & technology

To explore new project opportunities you can get in touch direct with any of the directors. Each of the team focus on particular speciality areas. On a number of projects we also work with a network of associate consultants, including the team below.

Associates

Alex Farrow

Alex Farrow

Youth policy

Portfolio

Selected projects

Young People Friendly Neighbourhoods

Young People Friendly Neighbourhoods has become synonymous with communities taking action to support their young people in times of hardening social attitudes and 60% cuts on average to youth work. YPFN was a government funded England programme across 20 neighbourhoods, led by Groundwork. Bill co-ordinated the support team through a partner organisation, FPM, enabling local partnerships to build sustainable community-led provision for open-access and targeted youth work. Housing Associations, such as Affinity Sutton (Clarion), proved vital local partners in brokering community conversations and energising long term solutions. The programme also fostered new youth work organisations in youth mutuals, as with Circle Crew for Change and Young Lambeth Coop.

These are the summary findings, setting out six core challenges.

We continue to fight for youth work in these difficult times. Bill supported Brighton’s campaign to save their youth services through a national event of young people sharing their own successes. Jennie has been working with local youth organisations to ensure young people have greater voice and influence over the support and provision available to them, for example with consultations with young people at Mahdlo Youth Zone and non-management supervision with the participation lead for Youth Ambition Oxford.


Leadership and Management

Practical Participation continues to support organisational improvement and change through training and consultancy focusing on leadership and management. In addition, we have created and made freely available two resources.

Leading for the Future is a resource created by Practical Participation working with The Woodcraft Folk.

It is designed to support individuals and local groups of all ages explore and develop the values, knowledge and skills necessary for effective leadership and to gain confidence to put these into action. Leading for the Future was developed with young people to help make rigorous leadership thinking simple but not simplistic. Different aspects of leadership are explored through a set of easy to use activities, focusing on building skills and putting these into practice.

You can find the guide to download on the woodcraft folk website, or access a wide range of resources on our archive of learning from the project here.

Leadership and Management is an introductory workbook for those who need a sound grounding in management theory and practice which is accessible and useable in a busy schedule. It has been well received as a freestanding resource and when accompanied by Practical Participation mentoring and support.

“This is wonderful - great to see key management texts made accessible and applied in practice. I like the workbook approach - and it covers a lot of ground.”

“The workbook provides a 360 degree resource on leadership and management. It is clearly constructed and easy to use, with clear aims and guidance of what to do, with useful references and ideas from leading theorists.”

“For a complex subject, the workbook makes things easy!”

“The conversations with Jennie were especially useful in filling in the gaps and not letting me avoid the challenges. I have a greater sense of my strengths and weaknesses and some techniques and models to return to either as an individual or within my team.”


Young Carers

There are over 170,000 known young carers in England. The Children’s Society Include project  has being at the heart of promoting young carers’ voice and influence, leading to significant improvement in policy and practice across England and internationally these last 15 years. . Over the years Practical Participation has contributed in many ways to this movement, including through capacity building in local authorities and the third sector, developing resources such as the Engage Toolkit and in evaluating the projects.

Jennie has worked with Young Carers in Focus (YCiF). Led and informed by young people, YCiF allowed young carers to communicate, share stories and campaign for the things that matter most to them. The YCiF network was developed by young carer ‘champions’, who received training and skills to help them raise awareness about the issues they and other young carers face. Not only did they reach out to other young carers across the country, they informed policy makers about the changes they want to see at local and national level. Jennie worked with a group of young people from the project to evaluate its impact. Jennie is continuing her support with further independent evaluation work.


Evaluation: Thursdays Together

Thursdays Together is part of the King Hedges Family Support Project, Jennie worked with the to undertake an independent evaluation of the group run to support parents and carers of pre-school children in the area. The project aims to improve life chances by reducing isolation, increasing the health and well-being and life skills. It is an open access service with more intensive support available to all who might need it.

The report is available here.

“We contracted Practical Participation to undertake the evaluation of our project because we wanted to ensure that the views of our service users were central both to the report and to the work which we carry out. Jennie designed a methodology which involved our families as much as possible, whilst still remaining flexible and sensitive to the needs of staff during our sessions. Jennie was friendly and approachable. This made it easy for parents to talk to her. She also developed a good rapport with the staff team, thereby making the evaluation a smooth but productive experience for our organisation. The report we received was valued highly by our project and will be used to support us as we apply for funding in order to continue our project in the future.“ Jo Hunt, project manager


Big Local

Practical Participation is passionate about bottom up community-led neighbourhood change. Bill joined Big Local in 2012, a national programme managed by Local Trust through a National Lottery endowment of £220 million. Bill supports four of the 150 Big Local areas in England to enable residents make a difference to the things that matter most to them locally and to make their communities even better places to live. Each area has a budget of about £1 million to invest locally over ten years. It’s a vision of dynamic, resilient, resident-led change that Big Local wants to share, especially in these times of cuts and closures of much needed local services.

Big Local is underpinned by an explicit community development approach seeking action and change. It requires community connection and conversation to help determine priorities as in Kirk Hallam. It needs effective communication with residents to ensure local accountability as in Allenton. And it needs to demonstrate positive action and change as in Boston.

Bill works as one of 70 Big Local Reps to support Big Local partnerships to develop and deliver their plan based on local needs and priorities and to energise community connection and strengthen community pride through the local action and change achieved.


Act by Right

Practical Participation retains its commitment to supporting groups and communities gain and use the knowledge and skills needed to be effective activists for positive change.

Act by Right is a resource to support action and change that was first created by Bill Badham in 2004 and is still widely used. It arose out of a strong belief in children and young people’s right to activism and concern at the lack of robust and accessible resources to support this. It is based on a five stage journey and uses activities to grow knowledge and skills to better equip activists to build and sustain campaigns to make things better where they live or on the things that are important to them. It has been used widely among community groups at home and abroad including with young people in Palestine.

Alex Farrow developed a remix of Act by Right for Climate Change campaigning, which contains all the core Act by Right resources, plus some extra climate change related activities.

It is available free online at www.actbyright.org.uk.


360 Giving Data Standard

The 360 Giving project set out a five-year ambition for open philanthropy in the UK: to see trusts and foundations reporting on the grants they give - supporting more informed, effective and transparent grant making across the country.

At a workshop in June 2013, participants identified the need for a data standard that would help trusts and foundations to publish information on their grant-making activities. As a result of those discussions, Nominet Trust and Indigo Trust sponsored a small-scale research and development project, led by Practical Participation, to explore:

  • Existing supply of data from UK trusts and foundations
  • Potential demand for trust and foundation grantmaking data
  • Existing standards

Through a series of rapid research 'sprints', we delivered a prototype standard, and are now working to support the wider adoption of a fully developed data standard.


Open Data in Developing Countries Research

Working as a staff consultant at the World Wide Web Foundation, Tim was research lead for the IDRC funded CAD $2m two-year Exploring the Emerging Impacts of Open Data in Developing Countries (ODDC) project.

Working with 17 partner organisations across 12 countries, the ODDC project combines research capacity building with in-depth research work to understand how open data is being used to affect governance and decision making in different settings around the world.

A selection of research outputs can be accessed on the project website, including:

As part of this project, Tim also led the development of the Open Data Barometer, managing the research process in 2013 and 2014, and acting as lead author for the reports.


Digital Edge: Provocation Paper

Working with David Wilcox, Tim and Alex put together a crowdsourced provocation paper on the role of technology to support young people, helping to shape the £2m Digital Edge Nominet Trust funding programme.

David has documented the process of creating the paper over on the Social Reporters website. We combined online discussions, collaborative documents and face-to-face events to identify 10 key issues to consider in using digital technology to address key social challenges faced by young people. Alex then looked for existing online evidence related to the key messages to help deepen the insights shared in the report.

The method we developed has gone on to be employed in a range of future projects.

Get in touch

Get in touch to find more how we could support your work. Just drop an e-mail to any of the co-directors, or fill in the form below and we'll get back to you soon.