How can we continue to focus on outcomes when a pandemic hits?

We deliberately set out to design a funding model that would actually help us (rather than hinder us – as is so often the case) to nurture our relationships and deliver our collaborative way of working.

A range of stakeholders contribute to each individual child’s 2-year WLZ programme of support and that funding pays for both our WLZ Link Workers/team and our delivery partners who deliver personalised specialist support (e.g. therapy, tuition, drama) for each and every child with us.

There is no single dominant funder, everyone is in it together. We are held accountable by all of them, constantly sharing data and evidence, and making decisions jointly informed by schools, councils, our delivery partners and other community organisations (and of course informed by the children, young people and parents themselves), about how we spend the money on each child and what we deliver with them.

This is our natural way of working. We have a CLEAR set of values, the first of which, the C, is Collaborative. It requires intentional and dedicated effort to work together to get our programme the best it can be for every single child. Everyone in our partnership strives to:
• Constantly communicate – one of the five conditions of collective impact
• Deeply understand and buy into each other’s values and aims
• Share data so as to foster understanding about each other’s work

Since COVID-19 struck, collaborative working and trust have never been more important. And because of the effort we have always made with all our stakeholders, that trust was there when we really needed it and enabled us to pivot and help families to get what they needed to support themselves through some very challenging periods in the last 12 months.

We have entered into ‘outcomes-based contracts’ with some of our funders – meaning we are paid once we share evidence of the children achieving certain milestones. We designed them together and at the outset none of us knew if they would work – were they really achievable, would they foster collaboration and drive performance or would they push us towards some unintended incentives?

We have held ourselves accountable, been transparent and delivered evidence as we have delivered to these contracts. That has further deepened our relationships such that when crisis struck, our funding partners were supportive and willing to flex on the milestones to enable us adapt our service to provide what children and families needed in the new context.

There were negotiations of course, we were pushed again to deliver to our best potential and to deliver the evidence to show we had done it, but the depth of relationships and levels of understanding meant we were able to agree a set of milestones that made sense for everyone involved. And all the funders who support us this way agreed with the approach.

There is one key person at the heart of all of these relationships, all this trust, all this very practical partnership work. And that is each and every child we work with. Whenever there is an issue, we bring it right back to the child and then we can almost always agree, because everyone wants the best for the children in our Zone.

And our funding model helps to make that happen, because every funder is joined up around every individual child, paying into each child’s programme and therefore trying to make it all about them, as it should be.

Louisa Mitchell, CEO of WLZ

together, every child and young person can flourish.