Stoke on Trent Support Options

The challenge

Local Government is one of the building blocks of our society and it is under unprecedented strain. In fact, we are asking even more of it now, just as resources are becoming more stretched. We must enable it to thrive as it touches the lives of everyone, every single day.Our role was to programme manage the set-up and delivery of this project, and to also provide specialist organisational design, process design, and change management capability. The project covered all aspects of the establishment of the shared service centre: finding the location, the building fit-out, recruitment of staff, design of the new business and operating model, process design, TUPE of staff, recruitment, training and transition of work into the new service centre.

The bigger picture

A study commissioned by the London Borough of Lambeth sought to identify how community networks are most likely to develop. The process typically begins with projects that are “lean and live”: they start with very little money and evolve rapidly through trial and error. They are developed not by community heroes working alone, but by collaborations between local people. These projects create opportunities for “micro-participation”: people can dip in and out of them without much commitment.

When enough of such projects have been launched, they catalyse a deeper involvement, generating community businesses, co-operatives and hybrid ventures, which start employing people and generating income. A tipping point is reached when between 10% and 15% of local residents are engaging regularly. Community then begins to gel, triggering an explosion of social enterprise and new activities, that starts to draw in the rest of the population. The mutual aid these communities develop functions as a second social safety net. The process, the study reckons, takes about three years. The result is communities that are vibrant and attractive to live in, which generate employment, are environmentally sustainable and socially cohesive, and in which large numbers of people are involved in decision-making.

The study estimates that supporting a participatory culture costs about £400,000 for 50,000 residents: roughly 0.1% of local public spending. It is likely to pay for itself many times over, by reducing the need for mental health provision and social care and suppressing crime rates, recidivism and alcohol and drug dependency.

The Ignite approach

Ignite takes a systematic approach:


We create a community development route map to highlight which priorities need addressing and how building community capacity will contribute to delivering outcomes. This helps focus on where to intervene and how to build towards critical mass of participation

Frame the challenge

Select tangible priority problems, making sure we create a clear vision and purpose for any intervention. This clarifies the link between demand and money and gives a clear sense of what good would look like


Making sure we understand the root causes of demand, what can be influenced and by whom. If we are going to build community we want to know we are doing it to help “fix the right problem”


Selectively inject the wealth of Insight that we have gained to stimulate innovation on the best way to intervene

Stretch and Build

Building up the solution and establishing a business case and, preferably, a pilot to prove the case


Scale up successful interventions, support the community in making interventions sustainable and recycle benefits back into the overall programme. Refresh the community development route map to reflect changing priorities and to exploit what is working.

There are hundreds of examples of how this might begin, such as community shops, development trusts, food assemblies (communities buying fresh food directly from local producers), community choirs and free universities (in which people exchange knowledge and skills in social spaces). Also time banking (where neighbours give their time to give practical help and support to others), transition towns (where residents try to create more sustainable economies), potluck lunch clubs (in which everyone brings a homemade dish to share), local currencies, Men’s Sheds (in which older men swap skills and escape from loneliness), turning streets into temporary playgrounds (like the Playing Out project), secular services (such as Sunday Assembly), lantern festivals, fun palaces and technology hubs.

Why Ignite – our perspective

Ignite has a unique perspective on this space

  • We have extensive experience in delivering innovation, transformation and huge tangible benefits for councils. We design councils around the customer and have a well-honed instinct for what works for customers and communities. When we transform a council we argue strongly for more community enablement focussed on helping manage demand.
  • We recognise that community initiatives are often seen as “nice to have” and “lacking in impact”. We also recognise that these initiatives are often “leaps of faith” or “community experiments” and lack the robustness needed to create a clear line of sight between investment, primary impact, reduction in demand for services and reduction in the cost of meeting demand. Ignite’s approach is unusually robust
  • We are pragmatic implementers of change and genuine believers in the power of individuals to innovate and drive beneficial change – hence the strapline “Ignite.believe”
  • We recognise that there is an ecosystem at work and, while councils have a massive part to play, they don’t have all the levers. Therefore, councils are at the heart of driving collaboration across agencies
  • We have people in our team who are at the forefront of the thinking and practice in building communities
  • Ignite is passionate about changing the face of public service