In our first conversations about learning, an interest was expressed in building a model of the Collective’s work. This means trying to set out what will be done, and with what effect. A logic model is one example. A theory of change is another. Even if you do not use models you have probably seen them used.

But models can be useful if they make us think, if they give us a way of learning.

This way of working is as old as the hills and, inevitably, there are criticisms. The real world doesn’t behave like a model. There isn’t a linear progression from activities to the world being a better place to live. There are complexities, feedback loops, dynamics... The real world is messy.

The criticisms are well made. But models can be useful if they make us think, if they give us a way of learning. (We have written elsewhere about the future of models, but this isn’t the place for that).

Listening to the members of the Collective so far, less than a dozen conversations, we hear the following explanations around the Borough about what the Collective might do, and what it might achieve.

1. This is all about efficiency. It will lead to less unnecessary competition, and in some cases bad feeling. There will be more sharing of resources, and information. Better use of scarce resources, for example places where people can meet in person, will lower costs of civil society activities.

2. This is all about relationships. This story -or model- goes something like this:

  • if the Collective connects civil society organisations and improves understanding of the Borough population and their needs there will be
  • Better tending of the space around people, more contexts in which citizens can flourish and be their better selves, producing
  • What we call relational outcomes like trust, pride in community, and belonging to place
  • These changes lead to:
  • less pressure on expensive public services, and
  • public systems to place more trust in civil society organisations, and in the Collective as the intermediary, and
  • improved health and development for Barking and Dagenham citizens.

(The criticism of linear models applies to above, but there may be something to learn).

3. This all re-balancing public systems and civil society. If the Collective gets a large number of civil society organisations involved and pointing in the same direction/speaking with a shared voice then public systems will take more notice, and there will be better decisions about how to use scarce resources.

4. This is all about utility:

  • If the Collective designs, convenes, trains and funds innovation for civil society organisations
  • There will be better, smarter, more efficient civil society organisations
  • Leading to better relational outcomes -trust, belonging, reslience, and
  • Better health and development for citizens.