What we think

Learning from development: how constraint can foster innovation for UK services

18th January 2016 Posted by: Rachael

By Kate Wareing, Ethicore Associate


Although it makes me feel old to do the maths, I’ve now accumulated some twenty years of working experience across the UK statutory, not for profit and international development sectors. Whenever I cross over between the UK and development worlds I am struck by how much the work has in common and how little routine cross fertilisation there is between sectors.

Both development and UK charity sectors work with people whose lives are marginal, who are coping with huge insecurity. Learning from each others’ skills and experience offers opportunities to improve outcomes both in the UK and globally. Specifically for constrained UK services, we could look to development for inspiration and innovation for effective outcomes.

So let’s take a look at what I mean:

  1. Focus on assets not needs: In the face of pressure on resources to deliver services to vulnerable people in the UK the policy directive has been to target available resources as accurately as possible on those judged to be in greatest need. Needs assessment has therefore grown, and people have to “prove” their “need” in order to get access to services or help.

Now on the face of it this seems sensible. But when you are trying to recover after a crisis and improve your life the last thing you need is to have to prove how useless you are in order to be able to access the help you need. Focusing on your “needs” rather than your capacities is a profoundly depressing and negative way of framing the world.

The development sector typically starts from the opposite end of the telescope – focusing on “asset based” approaches to development – identifying the skills, capacities and access to resources that people can use as the foundations from which they can develop businesses, build their future security and increase their ability to cope with setbacks.

Both approaches have value in both contexts. But there is huge untapped learning about how we can identify and build capacities to improve outcomes for vulnerable individuals and communities right here in the UK.  So think about focusing on assets.

  1. Plan for resilience: One thing that services in the UK (and their funders) battle to try and reduce is what is known as the “revolving door” phenomena – where clients make progress whilst in a service but then fail to maintain their progress and end up back in services when the next crisis hits. The “revolving door” is no good for people who end up back where they started and no good for the public purse with repeated pressure for already stretched services.

One concept from international development that is just beginning to be talked about in the UK is resilience – how you can help people to increase their ability to survive the next shock. When you’re working with communities whose lives are vulnerable to flooding, to drought, to conflict or are on a knife edge economically the question is all about how the crisis can be survived and how people can be equipped to minimise the impact of the next crisis.  If you’re working in the UK with people whose lives are very fragile,  how can you reduce the domino effect when one crisis precipitates another and another until people are unable to cope and recover? Planning for resilience is planning to stop that door revolving.

3.Take a holistic approach:   UK services are often constructed to address one dimension of people’s lives – their mental health problem, or their homelessness, or their lack of income. What the best of development does very well is examine and then attempt to address the way in which people’s whole lives connect, and then works with communities to try to work out how lives can be improved. I remember a project I visited in Thailand where the project had begun by looking at the impact of an AIDs / HIV diagnosis on people in a particular community. Apart from immediate health needs it was clear that the impact on women was far more acute, as they experienced greater social stigmatisation that often resulted in the collapse of their family relationships and their incomes. It made absolute sense then for work to focus as much on social attitudes to women living with AIDs as on the provision of health care and early diagnosis.

We hear a lot in the UK about the lack of “joined up working”, and there is good evidence that when services are able to behave in a more holistic and “person centred” way that they can achieve better outcomes. We also need to focus on the relationships between people, and how our support structures can add value to people’s own capacities, and those of communities more widely. Taking a holistic approach will pay dividends in outcomes for vulnerable people.

In economically constrained times when services are being cut and people are under pressure learning can be seen as a luxury. Learning from a sector which works in environments of extreme scarcity offers fresh perspectives for the UK  on which we can build improved services and better lives.


Kate Wareing has twenty years experience working across the statutory, charitable and not for profit sectors in housing, social care and international development.  Most recently Director of the UK Poverty Programme at Oxfam , she now advises organisations on strategy development, learning and capacity building.

Poverty Footprinting – A Step Closer

30th November 2015 Posted by: Rachael

By Jo Zaremba, Ethicore Associate

poverty footprint image

You may have missed this, but the UN Sustainable Development Summit launched not only the SDGs, but also the Poverty Footprint Tool and Indicator guidance from the UN Global Compact and Oxfam International.  Two transformational agendas, although the latter may have been overshadowed.  So let’s take a look at the opportunity for this new tool to transform the impact of business.

The Poverty Footprint is an invaluable new assessment tool that enables companies and civil society partners to understand corporate impacts on poverty. As an implementation tool for the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the Poverty Footprint provides a unique opportunity for companies to collaborate with civil society and learn concretely how to make transformational change.  The tool builds on studies conducted over the past ten years and experience of a broad Advisory Group from NGOs, institutions and companies, myself included.

The Poverty Footprint provides a framework for companies and civil society organisations to work together on researching, analysing, and finding solutions to reducing poverty.  It’s a powerful tool for learning and collaboration.  For civil society, it presents standard measures that can work in practice.  For companies, it is a practical approach to begin to understand key poverty indicators.  Most importantly, it provides the essential shared language and a route to develop business models that are pro-poor and generate greater impact.

We’re excited about where this new innovation can take partnerships and programming.  Invitations are open for organisations interested in piloting and testing the tool.

Jo Zaremba is a development professional, specialising in markets analysis and markets based approaches, corporate responsibility and environmental practices.

Registering your charity – ten lessons learnt

16th November 2015 Posted by: Rachael

So you want to register a charity?  Perhaps you’re setting up a brand new organisation to achieve change in your community. Perhaps its time for your existing community group to take the step to become a formal charity. Here are some of the lessons we’ve learned as we’ve helped organisations through this process.

Registering a charity wordle

Before you start…

  1. Registering your charity is not the first step in the process. First you need to decide on the type of organisation that you want to be, appoint your trustees and write your governing document. The Charity Commission website helps you with governance as well as the process of registering.  There are different rules in Scotland and Northern Ireland which you will find here.
  2. Using one of the Charity Commission’s model governance documents is a good idea. For starters, they help you think through all the things you need to decide. Secondly, the Charity Commission are used to working with them, making questions less likely. Watch out for the objects clause . You’ll need to use specific Commission language here, and again when you register your charity. Choose from a prescribed thirteen set forms of words. Remember these words limit what you can do, so go broad.
  3. When thinking about your board, it’s simpler to register if your board only has non executive members (i.e. staff members don’t sit on the board). The Charity Commission is concerned that board members do not benefit from your work. If you want staff on your board you’ll need to manage any potential issues of personal benefit.
  4. Open a bank account (if you don’t already have one). This can feel circular – the Charity Commission wants your bank account details for you to register, the bank wants your charity registration number. Talk to your bank – they are used to this, and can help with accounts specifically for community groups to get you going.Well done! You’ve decided on your form of organisation, written your governing document, appointed your trustees and opened a bank account. It’s time to begin on the charity registration process.
  5. The Purposes section of the registration form is where you repeat the objects in your governing document – using those standard thirteen set forms of words – remember those?
  6. Now you’re ready to tackle the rest of the “Purpose and public benefit” section and the “Operating and public benefit”. Describe what your charity does and include a link to your website if you have one. Help the Charity Commission understand what you do, who you work with and how you will achieve your objectives. Add examples to bring this to life.
  7. The “where you work” section is simple unless you work globally. If you are working to deliver benefits that will help people around the world then settle down – you’ll need to add every single country in the world one by one.
  8. Watch out for the trustee declaration form. You’re going to need all of your trustees to sign the same document confirming their identities. It’s worth printing off the form and sending it round to your trustees well before you are ready to hit submit.
  9. Don’t take a break, go and get yourself a cup of tea and carry on without logging back in. You’ll find you’ll have been timed out and your work lost. This one was hard learned…
  10. So now you submit and sit back?  Maybe, but not all registrations go through first time. Be prepared for questions, and respond with good detail and examples and in good time.  The process can take between 4 and 8 weeks.

So, 10 steps and you’re on your way.  Good luck!

Kate Wareing

A Healthy 2015

18th December 2014 Posted by: Rachael


Your card this year supports the DEC Ebola Crisis Appeal and Riders For Health.  Thank you!