In February 2020 we wrote about how the Liverpool 100 Day Challenge, then just over half-way through, was helping shift relationships between communities and the public sector. More than 40 frontline staff, young people and community members were testing their ideas to improve children and young people’s life chances based on the needs and strengths of their own community. By the time Day 100 came around in March, teams across three Liverpool neighbourhoods had made work happen in weeks that would normally take months, including:
There was a real sense that the 100 Day Challenge was a launch-pad to reset relationships across Liverpool and reimagine how public services could work alongside communities. Then lockdown hit; everyone’s focus inevitably shifted to responding to the immediate crisis.
Six months on, we brought back together partners and team members from the 100 Day Challenge to explore what happened since Day 100 and to think about the value of the place-based collaboration that had started to emerge in our new, physically-distanced world. Inviting people to a Zoom call in the middle of rising infection rates across the city felt like it could be a frivolous demand on the time of people who are all under immense pressure. But we were pleased with the numbers that came along, and to hear that the relationships built during the 100 Day Challenge have been an enabling factor in local responses to COVID-19.
At the end of the Liverpool 100 Day Challenge one of the key things we learnt was that for relationships and ideas to really develop and create change, people need to have enough time and space to nurture them. This required managers carving out time for their teams to engage with the process alongside their day jobs, and spaces where team members could share successes, barriers and ask for help from each other and local leaders.
Six months on many of those relationships have sustained and strengthened, and have in part enabled local responses to COVID-19. Partnerships that may have seemed illogical at the time have flourished, making use of different people, places and organisation’s strengths and assets. A team member in Speke Garston commented:
“At first, I didn’t understand what this was about and why all these professionals were involved in this Challenge. Why was I (a Health Visitor) sat on a table with someone from the Fire Service? Now I understand how we are all actually working towards the same thing.”
Links made in Speke Garston during the 100 days helped frontline staff know who to get hold of during the crisis, like food banks and health visitors, while children’s centres managed to support 17,000 families to get access to school meal vouchers in just four days.
Colleen Martin, Assistant Director for Communities at Liverpool City Council and a key sponsor for the 100 Day Challenge, reflected that:
“We saw it wasn’t really about the money, but rather that giving time and space to build collegiate relationships was key to changing how we work across the city.”
During the 100 days and beyond, Liverpool City Council and partners across the city worked in a place-based way alongside communities to nurture local relationships and solutions rooted in neighbourhoods to grow.
The ripple-effect of place-based working was evident throughout COVID-19 too. At the beginning of lockdown people in Princes Park set up a WhatsApp group for 50 organisations and over 70 people working alongside the Council’s Community Development Team. Creating a virtual network of people and organisations with local knowledge enabled them to take action and quickly contain the infection spike in a coordinated way at a street-by-street level.
Overall, people power has proven beneficial beyond the 100 days while navigating the ever-changing COVID-19 landscape. A testament to the value of this place-based, community-led approach to addressing local needs, is that Liverpool City Council and strategic partners have weaved in learning from the 100 days within the City Plan, a roadmap for moving forward as a city by handing power over to people and communities, integrating health and social care and aligning public resources towards shared goals. Martin Farran, Director of Adult Services in Liverpool, said:
“At the end of the day, supporting people to connect with each other and think differently is what will drive the change we’re seeking.”