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Evaluation of the Welland Strategic Alignment Project - BIS

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Evaluation of the Welland Strategic Alignment Project - BIS

Evaluation of the Welland

    Strategic Alignment Project

    Final report to the SBS

    ANNEX VOLUME 2

    November 2006

URN 07/1119

    Evaluation of the Welland Strategic Alignment Project

    Final report to the SBS

    Annex Volume 2

    Contents

    Annex Q: Welland Pathfinder: RBSA End of Project Report

Contact: Jane Rindl Tel: 01223 209400 email: jmrindl@sqw.co.uk

    www.sqw.co.uk

    The Welland Business „Pathfinder‟ Project

    The Welland Turnpike Programme

    The Welland Business „Pathfinder‟ Project

    The Welland Turnpike Programme

    June 2005-06

    RBSA End of Project Report

    Welland Enterprise Agency 1

    The Welland Business „Pathfinder‟ Project

    The Welland Turnpike Programme

     Contents

     Page

    Remit/Description of RBSA Role/Responsibilities 3

    Description of Activities/Use of Time 4

Review of RBSA Performance 5

    A Day in the Life of an RBSA 6

    Work with Colleges/Social Enterprise 6

    Integration of and Ability to Deliver Wider Services 8

    Outputs 11

    Activity Levels/Referrals/Industry Sector 11

    Cost Per Client Visit 11

Qualitative/Quantitative Information

    ; Key Learning Points- Positive 12

    ; Key Learning Points- Negative 12

    ; Best Practice 12

    ; Development Opportunities 13

    ; Key Issues 13

Assessment of Local Authority Area

    ; East Northants 14

    ; Market Harborough 14

    ; Melton Mowbray 15

    ; South Kesteven/Rutland 16

    Client/Partner Comments 17

    Welland Enterprise Agency 1

    The Welland Business „Pathfinder‟ Project

    The Welland Turnpike Programme

     Attachments

Appendix I Outputs (Full Analysis)

Appendix II Activity Levels/Referrals/Industry Sector (Full Analysis)

    Appendix III Key Learning Points +VE (Full Analysis)

Appendix IV Key Learning Points VE (Full Analysis)

    Appendix V Best Practice (Full Analysis)

    Appendix VI Development Opportunities (Full Analysis)

    Appendix VII Key Issues (Full Analysis)

    Appendix VIII Competence Based Interview Form & Flow Chart

    Welland Enterprise Agency 2

    The Welland Business „Pathfinder‟ Project

    The Welland Turnpike Programme

    RBSA End of Project Report

Remit/Description of RBSA Role/Responsibilities

    National, regional and local partners from the Welland worked together to develop the Pathfinder Project (subsequently re-named the Turnpike Project). The main partners

    (Defra, Small Business Service and emda) agreed that the project would concentrate on

    the delivery of services for rural enterprises, and the Welland (a sub-region comprising Melton, South Kesteven, Harborough, Rutland and East Northants) was chosen as a suitable area for the trial.

    The project was conceived as a piece of “action based” research, to provide input to Defra‟s policy decisions on Modernising Rural Delivery and to help shape

    recommendations on the alignment of business support to CSR 2007. In addition, the project partners were also clear that they wanted to see a lasting legacy from this collaborative venture, in terms of improved business support services for small businesses.

    The overall objective of the project was therefore, to improve the experience of small businesses in the Welland needing to access business support services.

    There were also a number of additional results/outcomes the partners wished to achieve:-

    ; Improve the take up of services from public and private sector businesses in

    the Welland

    ; Test whether support for rural (especially land based) enterprises can be

    delivered successfully through the mainstream system (i.e. Business Link as

    the generalist broker)

    ; Improve the coherency of the “bundle” of publicly funded services offered to

    customers

    ; Reduce confusion for the customer by reducing the duplication of services

    offered

    ; Promote Business Link as the single point of contact for all services in the

    Welland

    ; Ensure publicly funded services complement, but do not compete with,

    similarly priced services from the commercial sector.

    Four Rural Business Services Advisers (RBSAs) were recruited through a

    comprehensive, robust, competence based structured interview process Appendix

    VIII, and each was designated their own local authority, geographical area… Market

    Harborough, Melton Mowbray, South Kesteven/Rutland and East Northamptonshire.

    The main responsibility of the RBSAs was to interact with potential business clients

    and intermediaries and to raise awareness of the benefits of the services available in

    the Welland. The team‟s purpose was to:-

    Welland Enterprise Agency 3

    The Welland Business „Pathfinder‟ Project

    The Welland Turnpike Programme

    ; raise the general level of awareness of the availability of publicly funded

    services in the Welland

    ; raise the awareness of “business support virgins” about the benefits of getting

    help

    ; signpost to public sector providers where a business client‟s immediate needs

    can be met by a single agency

    ; refer to Business Link diagnostic and brokerage where a multi agency

    approach is required, or a client requires help in sourcing suppliers from the

    private sector

    ; gather market intelligence about services and customers and then share it

    with all partners through the Welland Xtra knowledge bank.

Description of Activities/Use of Time

    During the first month of the project the RBSAs were trained in the fundamentals of their role, and educated in terms of the existing partner organisations in the Welland. The rationale for this was to ensure the partners were able to assist them in their role, and that they, in turn, might pass on any relevant referrals to each partner organisation. This training included informative sessions at all of the Business Links covering the Welland; namely Leicestershire, Lincolnshire & Rutland and Northamptonshire and other key partner organisations.

    In the second month the RBSAs began mapping their respective areas, searching existing databases and creating their own databases. The main focus was on start-up, micro and small businesses located in rural areas of the Welland, with special emphasis being given to “business support virgins”, one of the primary targets of the project.

    Business clients were sought in carefully selected markets. Different methods were tried to ascertain the most effective ways of making the initial contact with potential clients- such as telephone, cold calling, mail shots, social/business networks and one to many or one to one meetings

    Following a review at the end of the third month of the project it became apparent that the average time spent per client visit equated to around four to five hours in total. This included…

    1) initially finding the client, by means of a mapping exercise/database search/event 2) making contact with the client by telephone, e-mail or letter

    3) time spent with the client listening to their concerns/ideas and discussing ways that

    the RBSA might be of assistance to them

    4) completing the post visit paperwork/electronic management information requirements

    of the project

    5) making referrals to appropriate service providers or partner organisations on behalf

    of clients ( the review also established that, following the initial visit, three referrals

    were made on average per client)

    6) client follow-up visit and associated paperwork/electronic management information

    requirements.

    Welland Enterprise Agency 4

    The Welland Business „Pathfinder‟ Project

    The Welland Turnpike Programme

    The balance of the RBSAs‟ time was taken up with team, partner and networking meetings and training/CPD events.

Review of RBSA Performance

    In the original remit of the project the RBSAs were requested to promote Business Link as a single point of contact (see under Remit/Description of RBSA Role/Responsibilities above). However, it became apparent in the first few weeks of the project that this was not the most efficient way of handling a referral. Unfortunately, the RBSA rarely received any acknowledgement or feedback from the relevant Business Link (mainly due to pressure on their time/personnel resource). As a result, the RBSA had no way of knowing what contact/service had been offered to the client, following the referral, when approaching the client at a future date. Frequently, the RBSA had to chase the relevant Business Link for the necessary feedback. This problem had a potential negative impact in terms both of RBSA efficiency and credibility and also created a potential reputational risk for Welland Enterprise Agency.

    In the early days of the project it also became evident that multiple referrals were common, as the majority of clients had more than one issue they wished to discuss or resolve. This increased the pressure on Business Links. Also the RBSAs had developed local relationships with partners through their continuous mapping exercises and had the relevant contacts necessary to refer clients to. To release this pressure it was decided that direct referrals would be made to service providers, where appropriate, avoiding the need to put all referrals through a constricted Business Link “gateway”.

    In addition, a number of clients expected (or assumed) that the RBSA would be in a position to undertake an analytical and/or advisory role. As a result, on occasions, the role of the RBSA seemed partially to overlap with the Information/Diagnostic/Brokerage (IDB) role of the Business Link adviser. However, the overlap was only partial and rather more apparent than real, given that the RBSAs‟ IDB activity was not linked to the IDB

    (Product 10) process, primarily aimed at companies employing ten or more people. As the RBSA target market was start-up/micro and small businesses, the IDB procedure they undertook simply involved the provision of additional information and support when requested by the client.

    The RBSAs found that certain needs were sector specific. For example, it quickly became evident that a successful client visit to land based businesses and social enterprises required prior knowledge of the current issues and culture of the sector.

    The project also established that effective approaches to remote rural businesses also required a degree of local knowledge and local venues for business support events, training and networking meetings. Micro/small business owners and their staff do not have the time or inclination to travel long distances to business support events.

    Overall the RBSAs were well received by Welland businesses. Clients were impressed by a truly local business support service, providing local delivery to local needs. It seems important to businesses in the Welland that this type of delivery continues in a format that is user friendly, relationship based and, above all, provided on their patch. They want (and need) a local face that can establish a relationship with them, who has an

    Welland Enterprise Agency 5

    The Welland Business „Pathfinder‟ Project

    The Welland Turnpike Programme

    understanding of local business issues, who can link them up with business support service providers, commercial service providers, local authorities, and commerce and trade networks.

A Day in the Life of an RBSA

    The RBSA has a range of responsibilities and engages in a variety of activities, including- networking, visiting clients, visiting partner organisations, meetings with key partners or attending business events. There is a need for well developed personal time management and project management skills.

A typical day may include the following:-

    ; Breakfast/ Networking meeting- promoting the project and collecting business cards,

    making notes for action/contact

; Research on potential client contacts- especially “business support virgins”, a

    primary target of the project

    ; Client visits- up to four in any one day- each lasting from 45 minutes to 3 hours-

    involving research, preparation and travelling time, in addition to the meeting

    ; Referrals- making accurate and timely notes for action from meetings, making

    referrals to service providers, checking on progress and chasing for responses to

    previous referrals

; Reporting- preparing daily, weekly and monthly reports as required

    ; Evening- frequent business, networking or training events, involving clients and/or

    partner organisations and business contacts.

Work with Colleges/Social Enterprise

    As part of the Welland Pathfinder project the RBSAs had an opportunity to work with schools, colleges and social enterprises. In each district there were different levels of engagement, depending on the local initiatives available.

    The following comments highlight some of the issues found by each RBSA in their district.

East Northants

; Colleges- Moulton College and Northampton College-

    Both of these visits were in the early days of the project and the conclusion was soon reached that little would be gained in terms of the remit of the project in continuing down the college/school route- so it was not pursued. The view was taken that this is not part of the pathfinder but might be an element in any follow on project.

    Welland Enterprise Agency 6

    The Welland Business „Pathfinder‟ Project

    The Welland Turnpike Programme

; Social Enterprises-

    No contact was made with any social enterprise organisations in East Northants, although the RBSA did undertake visits to social enterprises in Lincolnshire to assist the SEEM IDB project (details as below under South Kesteven and Rutland)

    Harborough

    ; Colleges-

    There was no contact with schools in the Harborough area as these were not included within the project brief. A meeting took place with South Leicestershire College (FE) at Market Harborough South Leicestershire Learning Innovation Centre, to identify opportunities for training of WEA clients in the area. Clients have been referred to Brooksby College for land based training courses as appropriate. The RBSA has worked closely with Skillspoint, also based at the Innovation Centre in Market Harborough, referring clients for specific training requirements.

; Social Enterprises-

    During the latter part of the Pathfinder project there have been three potential social enterprises identified in the Harborough area. One organisation is a very small charity, which brings opera to local schools and communities through workshops and performances. The other two organisations have an education focus. One provides activity and team building and the other concentrates on alternative qualification based education, both for disadvantaged and excluded youngsters. These complementary organisations, through discussion with the Leicestershire Social Enterprise Development Officer and the RBSA, have considered merging and becoming a social enterprise. The Harborough RBSA also identified and carried out a survey with another potential social enterprise in South Kesteven as part of the SEEM IDB project

Melton

; Colleges-

    The RBSA liaised with Melton-Brooksby Further Education College, based in Melton Mowbray, specifically with Ms Tina Ridell, the business development co-coordinator. Many clients have been referred to Tina for in-depth work based upon a training needs analysis (TNA). Clients were referred in the following sectors- light industrial, horticultural, manufacturing, food & drink, food production (abattoirs, meat and poultry processing on a small scale) for work based learning programmes to NVQs Level 2 & 3 and for modern apprenticeships.

; Social Enterprises-

    Work has been done using the brokerage questionnaire to engage with several Social Enterprise organisations at initial discussion and exploratory level.

    Welland Enterprise Agency 7

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