Real-time Network Design Evaluation: The Inclusive Growth Network in its First Year

Summary of Key Takeaways

1 September 2021

7 minute read

The IGN commissioned Coda Societies to conduct a real time evaluation of the IGN in its first year. These are Coda's headline findings.

Overview of IGN – Year One

In year one the network has focused on onboarding the 12 local authorities and activity has included:

  • Initiation into the network followed by a process of relationship building with and among members which strengthened the initial process of buy-in and shared understanding of inclusive growth.
  • A deep understanding of local issues and priorities through workshops, one-on-one conversations, and roundtable discussions.
  • Establishing communication channels with a view towards both formal and informal contact.
  • Assessment of needs among members for particular types of expertise and support.
  • Responding to member needs as they emerge through programming, especially in response to Covid 19.

Ongoing indicators of success for year two

As we look ahead to year two, Coda proposes that the focus should be on:

  • Programmatic objectives
  • Launch 2 to 4 local pilots, co-designing and testing new policy interventions
  • Convening at least 10 working groups / sub-groups around common themes across LAs and drawing from the areas of focus set out in manifestos
  • Host an annual meeting of members, bringing together political leaders, as well as wider inclusive growth stakeholders that have emerged through network
  • Encourage and secure buy in and public communications from political leads in member places
  • Formalise director engagement through a regular, formal directors meeting
  • Maintain high levels of individual attendance to activities
  • Encourage the use of 10 days’ implementation advice for each member with CPP and/or national partners and/or others, rolling any outstanding days from year one into year two to enable access to significant project time, with a view to delivering pilots
  • Onboard more expert advisers and organisations, chosen based on LA needs, and in support of the delivery of implementation advice
  • Embed experts in specific pilots and other activities, as appropriate

Key Recommendations

The recommendations for evolving the IGN are inter-connected and inform one another, therefore they should be considered as a whole, including:

Deepening vs widening the network

There was broad agreement among members that to maintain focus and deepen relationships, the network need not expand too quickly but should rather spend the next period enriching existing connections and supplying members with the resources they need to carry out their local work more effectively. A sense of ownership of the network should be fostered so that formal and informal connections are facilitated; members should identify with the network and consider it an extension of their work and mission.

Diversity

Members viewed diversity of understandings of inclusive growth, and of political backgrounds, demographics, geographic regions, experience, and seniority of officers involved as a key asset of the existing IGN model.

Any future expansion of the network should retain the diversity of political backgrounds, demographics, geographic regions, experience, and seniority. A broad political approach that embraces a wide variety of understanding about inclusive growth seems to work well to facilitate broad discussion of inclusive growth, which has been recognised by CPP and factored into the establishment of the IGN.

Relations among seniority levels

Network development should continue to optimize the benefit of varied experience at the director and lead officer levels by structuring communications, training, and resource sharing with the goal of complementary experience in mind. The IGN should enhance the team dynamic and the ability of LAs to meet their local goals. Strategic leadership and innovation can and do take place across all officer levels. The network therefore does not adopt a strictly hierarchical model of engagement with member places.

Expert members

Expert advisers and organisations should continue to be drawn from varied sectors as long as LAs have the capacity to integrate their advice and training. This should be gauged and measured on an ongoing basis. Funding, capacity building and knowledge are principal areas of need.

For expert advisers, the risk of their involvement centred on a lack of uptake due to limited capacity, as well as the ability to follow up on the application of their advice on a tangible, implementable level. Some thought needs to be put toward a beginning, middle and end for projects involving expert input and a guided joint relationship that can run long enough to deliver intended results.

Member capacity

A clear threat to the functioning of the network is the capacity challenge to members and the concern that time spent in discussion or training would have to be weighed against other imperatives. The IGN must prioritize facilitating member involvement in the network, by ensuring the work of the network reflects their priorities post elections and helping them to deliver tangible results. This was anticipated by CPP during the set-up of the network and is being demonstrated through the IGN’s outputs.

Working groups and informal connections

Thematic working groups across members should be encouraged on both a formal and informal level.

Informal connections were welcomed by the network members and some had already made broad use of them for their problem-solving and programmatic implementation. Channels of informal contact should be tested for effectiveness and access encouraged.

Communications channels

The network should continue to be considered through a “user experience” perspective. Are communications channels easy to use, integrated into other work, quick to jump in and out of? Is the insight and information they generate easy to store and recall later? A variety of communications channels should be nurtured in order to produce an adaptable network suited to use at varying staff levels.

Institutional memory

The IGN should develop a directory of active members and focus areas, as well as a repository of case studies, lessons learned and records of training and conversations.

Data

For CPP, member feedback most often focused on the benefits of its internal expertise (its staffing and their knowledge expertise). Moving forward, the CPP could enhance how knowledge is captured and stored, clearly articulate how programmatic priorities are driven from the ground up, make thoroughly explicit what services are available to members, and leverage data to help the network find timely solutions to challenges most pressing at the local level.