Strengthening Organisations

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BIG Assist approved supplier

BIG Assist approved supplier

Rocket Science announced as BIG Assist approved supplier

BIG Assist is a programme for infrastructure organisations in the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector; delivered under contract to the Big Lottery Fund by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO).

The programme works to support infrastructure organisations based in England, to be more efficient, effective, sustainable and better able to adapt to the current and future operating environment. For more information on the BIG Assist programme visit the BIG Assist website:

Rocket Science have been approved as a BIG Assist Supplier to offer support to infrastructure organisations. We can be found in the BIG Assist ‘marketplace’ here

This recognition builds on the work we have done supporting a range of voluntary sector organisations and infrastructure to support their organisational development and resilience as well as their impact and income modelling.  You can find out more about our range of support here.

For more information contact James Turner in our Newcastle office or Caroline Masundire in our London office.

Innovating childcare provision

Innovating childcare provision

Innovating childcare through aytpical provision.

Rocket Science were asked by the London Borough of Brent to identify models for childcare in the borough and their potential for development into a social enterprise.

Following an initial scoping of the market and opportunities, we agreed to research the market demands for provision of atypical childcare provision for lone parents moving onto Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) in the London Borough of Brent. Our rationale for this focus was that access to employment for long term unemployed parents was being hindered by inaccessible childcare and that following welfare reform changes, parents entering the labour market were being directed into NMW entry-level jobs which often required shift work and did not reflect school hours.  We worked closely with the children’s team and through our detailed assessment of estate tenancies and family make up matched against labour market trends, we were able to make the case that action needed to be taken.

Following research with parents, Jobcentre Plus and other stakeholders we presented a series of options for the council to adopt and latterly with the council developed an innovative, feasible and sustainable business model, funded through local partners, that provided extended wraparound childcare (6.30 – 9 am and between 5 and 9 pm) targeted at residents across three estates. It built in opportunities around volunteering and training. We modelled the business plan and developed assumptions around staffing, costs and payments, working on achieving sustainability in Year 3.

For more information contact Caroline

Funding Advice and Support for Rural Communities

Funding Advice and Support for Rural Communities

Scottish Government

As a key part of this review for Scottish Government of funding advice provision for rural community groups in Scotland, Rocket Science mapped the available provision of funding advice and support. The advice landscape is complex, with many providers providing a partial service, some being focussed specifically on rural issues, some providing broad advice. This work mapped out that provision according to key features:

  • What type of providers provide support? (eg, Local Authorities, National thematic organisations, funders themselves, Third Sector Interfaces)
  • Extent to which different types of provider have a focus on providing funding advice (ie, is that their core function?)
  • Extent to which providers focus on rural groups?
  • Extent to which providers focus on early stage or existing (and possibly trading) community groups
  • Extent to which providers are paid for the support they provide
  • What level of resource is collectively available in each Local Authority area (eg, FTE equivalents providing free funding advice for rural community groups)

Mapping of the funding advice market was conducted through desk research and through extensive consultation with providers, including e Survey, telephone interview and triangulating results at participative workshops. The market needs for advice on funding were also mapped through consultation with community groups (online survey, telephone interview and workshop).

The output of this mapping is a clear sense of the diverse market around funding advice and support, and key differences in the type of provision between different types of organisation.

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In feedback workshops, the central message was that the mapping was extremely valuable in providing an overview of the funding advice provision. One concern that was raised was the need to understand whether the quality of the advice provision was sufficient for communities’ needs. The investigation then assessed communities’ views on the quality of advice provision, finding that across 7 major types of funding advice needs there were broad gaps in the awareness and accessibility of high quality provision for community groups. We also found that some advice providers were favoured much more strongly than others, with unexpected results.

The results are being collated into key recommendations for a new model for provision of funding advice to find innovative solutions to the existing gaps in the market.

Early intervention review

Early intervention review

Reviewing early intervention and service effectiveness – City of London

Rocket Science was selected to research alternatives to the City of London’s commissioning of early intervention services for residents.  The pilot focused on the Portsoken ward (dominated by 2 housing estates) and was intended to inform the Corporation’s Health and Wellbeing Strategy in preparation for their new role in public health. It was also intended to identify ways in which services could be better coordinated and avoid duplication, through person-centred commissioning.

An initial phase involved extensive mapping of and consultation with key stakeholders, from both within and outside the City, to inform our approach for gathering spend and use data.  We conducted an extensive desk review of existing public data on the ward, which was updated periodically to reflect new Census data as this became available.  NOMIS data was used to analyse deprivation, and how the ward compared to the City, London and UK.  Analysis of tenancies showed that the population has remained quite static, in part a consequence of the high level of services provided by the City, but also a reflection of strong cultural ties as residents chose not to move despite highly overcrowded housing conditions.  Indicators of health and economic wellbeing were at best static or in decline and, in spite of recent investments in public services in the area, the anticipated improvements to the area were not being realised.

Our research was corroborated by the experiences of residents and users of a range of services, drawn from a series of interviews, mini-focus groups and a survey of providers.  Whilst some services were highly valued, they were poorly coordinated and suffered because of low public awareness and insufficient promotion.   We presented the findings to both members and stakeholders and ran a consultation process from January through March 2013 in order to co-design recommendations in the light of a number of key policy changes.  These included on-going welfare reform – residents were perceived as at risk through digital exclusion, language barriers and the inaccessibility of better paid employment, and consequently the ward continued to have high levels of ‘working poor’; the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012 – what added value could be provided through better procurement, and the Localism Act 2011 – how could community empowerment reduce local dependency on public services?

The recommendations from the review which focused on improved asset management and developing community capacity have been adopted in full.  Key to the future of the ward is the development of a residents’ and providers’ forum which will become central to the design and commissioning of services.  A capacity building programme has been put in place over the next 12 months and an innovative community currency, Time Credits, to transform community engagement from passivity to pro-activity in the design and receipt of services.

“The Portsoken All Ages Early Intervention Review has a compelling vision for the future delivery of services in the area and some very positive recommendations about using our assets more effectively and delivering better health, welfare and employability services.” Neal Hounsell – Assistant Director Commissioning and Partnership.

For more information contact Caroline

Promoting your impact

Promoting your impact

VCS Assist support for Camden Society

Through the VCS Assist programme we helped the Camden Society understand and demonstrate their impact they were having in securing employment for people with disabilities across all of their programmes. This was to help them demonstrate that their performance was far higher than national programmes in supporting disabled people into work as well as capture the experience of employers and trainees.  We produced an infographic, both static and web enabled using our Piktochart software to help them spread their message and impact to funders and prime contractors.   You can view the online version here.

Contact Caroline to find out more about our impact and visualisation work

Micro-business and job creation

Micro-business and job creation

Federation of Small Business

Rocket Science were commissioned by the Federation of Small Businesses to explore the employment potential of micro-businesses (employing fewer than 10 people) and the extent to which there was scope to enhance recruitment by micro-businesses by providing appropriate recruitment-focused support. We reviewed statistical evidence from across Europe and our findings included:

  • Micro-businesses make up nearly 94% of Scottish businesses and provide 27% of the private sector jobs in Scotland[1].
  • This underplays their significance in tackling unemployment:
  • Over 40% of unemployed people who find work in the private sector go to work in a micro-business or become self-employed[2].
  • 26% of recruits to micro-businesses across the EU are long-term unemployed people[3].
  • Micro-businesses, therefore, provide a disproportionate number of opportunities for those previously unemployed and a significant part of Scotland’s ‘demand side’.

We surveyed 580 micro-businesses and interviewed over 70 micro-business owners.  Our findings included:

  • Micro-businesses are a particularly diverse customer group
  • There are distinctive issues around recruitment for micro-businesses
  • Micro-business owners develop highly-flexible approaches to employment
  • Recruitment presents micro-businesses with a range of risks and difficulties
  • The level of risks perceived by micro-business owners far exceed the reality of those risks and often, in themselves, lead to decisions not to recruit – despite the fact that the business needs to recruit
  • Micro-businesses often have limited capacity to manage staff.

We uncovered significant under-employment by micro-businesses and clear evidence that a support service that focused on helping micro-businesses grow through recruitment would help to tackle the risks around recruitment that micro-business owners perceived. On the basis of these findings we developed a range of detailed recommendations for national and local organisations about what an appropriate service should look like.

Outcome:  Micros Untapped has proved to be highly influential report and in Scotland there are now ‘growth through recruitment’ programmes in place in over 5 local authority areas, with more in the pipeline.  Glasgow’s economic development arm, ‘Jobs and Business Glasgow’ reoriented their whole strategy to focus on micro-businesses.  Early results show a significant upturn in recruitment by micro-businesses in the areas where such a service has been put in place, and in two of the areas the project has been significantly expanded.

Contact Richard for more information


[1] Scottish Corporate Sector Statistics (2011), p.27

[2] Urwin, P and Buscha, F (2012).  Back to Work:  The role of small businesses in unemployment and enterprise.  Federation of Small Businesses.

[3] cf 14% for Small and Medium and 9% for those employing over 250, de Kok et al, 2011