Accept that organisations will have different priorities
Treat it as an opportunity, not a threat
The Sensory Centre is a unique set-up. A charity, it began sixteen years ago as a fusion of the public and voluntary sector under one roof. Originally funded by the Scottish Government and National Lottery, it generates income from cross-sectoral partners who rent space within the centre. The NHS, local councils, and sensory loss charities are all present in the shared centre, with the main partners paying more than rent in recognition of the added benefits they obtain through situating themselves there.
As a charity, the Sensory Centre is able to bring in extra resources through collaborations that the local NHS or council just wouldn’t be able to – or that would take far too many layers of bureaucracy for them to bother with. For example, Tesco deliver their surplus food to the centre, which is then distributed by the charity to Centre users through the social enterprise café. Another example is that of the facilities management company, Mitie, whose company has a corporate social responsibility programme – through that, they completely renovated the social enterprise café at the centre, with extra support from TSB, at no cost to the charity or the centre partners including local authorities and NHS Forth Valley.
Moreover, the charity receives money from the local authority to employ someone at the centre to take forward the ideas of the Sensory Centre and their partners. This is funded by the Scottish Government as part of their ‘See Hear’ strategy, as they are keen on partnership working. This employee is able to work on improving the hub for the partners and the beneficiaries of the centre, as directed by the hub’s own partnership network that meets regularly to discuss all potential ideas and projects. Collaboration and cross-fertilisation across the centre’s organisations is key, all enabled by their co-location.
Sensory Centre manager Jacquie emphasises that the centre is successful thanks to the two-way benefits that accrue to both the local authority and the charity. She always looks to find the ‘win-win’ in any proposal, to ensure that all sides can get on board and benefit from projects and ideas. By being able to pull in help and support from other charities, companies and the council itself, she says it’s easy to find the added benefits for all, with the ultimate beneficiary being the service user.