At Work: Partnerships - Compact in action - Birmingham City Council

John Plummer

After a slow start, England's second city has found a champion to bring it up to speed.

The problem

At the beginning of the year, Birmingham was distinctly second-rate in terms of the Compact. "There had been all sorts of consultations about it since 2003, but the document wasn't published until February 2006 - and then interest waned," says Tippa Naphtali, Compact champion for Birmingham.

"We've seen these initiatives come and go, so the Compact was put on the back burner at some councils and fell off the radar at others."

The action

Naphtali, appointed in January, wanted to put the Compact higher up the agenda. He started sending monthly Compact email bulletins and created a DIY Compact disc for local organisations that explains what the agreement is about. He also established a West Midlands Regional Compact Forum. One of the most important messages hammered home by each communication was the need for 12-week consultation on issues affecting both sectors. A Compact implementation group was established.

The outcome

The city council, which is one of the main funders of the not-for-profit sector in Birmingham, agreed to work with the Birmingham Voluntary Services Council to ensure that its grant-making procedures complied with the Compact.

The chair of the council's Corporate Third Sector Group even asked BVSC to review its procedures to see if they were up to standard. Napthali, who is employed by Birmingham Strategic Partnership but based in BVSC, seconded staff from various organisations to review the council's documents and recommend improvements. The review team included members of BVSC, Birmingham Race Action Partnership, the Institute of Social Entrepreneurs and Birmingham and Solihull Social Enterprise Consortium.

When Compact commissioner John Stoker made his first public appearance in his new role at a Compact conference in Birmingham earlier this month, all 80 places were filled in advance. Naphtali says: "People are more interested and consultation periods have improved. What we have achieved is impressive."

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