Social Innovation Partnership Learning Programme

New research published today by the Institute of Social Policy, Housing, Equalities Research (I-SPHERE) at Heriot-Watt University could provide important lessons for the future delivery of public services in Scotland, helping to inform how these services respond to the impact of poverty on both individuals and their communities.

The Social Innovation Partnership (SIP), a unique collaboration between the Scottish Government, the Hunter Foundation, and a selection of social entrepreneurs was launched in 2016 with I-SPHERE and Homeless Network Scotland joining as independent learning partners in 2020.

There are 13 current SIP partners working primarily in communities where there are significant levels of poverty and related forms of disadvantage, caused by long-term economic trends like de-industrialisation, combined with recent developments like benefit entitlement changes and the impact of the pandemic.

SIP partners seek to improve their participants’ well-being and life chances beyond meeting material needs by placing a greater focus on people’s capabilities while supporting their long-term goals, which may include employment or improved family relationships.

Most SIP partners adopt ‘relational’ and highly adaptable approaches to providing support which, the research found, consistently succeeded in helping people to develop their capabilities. Many of these organisations place an emphasis on building close, consistent relationships to increase confidence, creating welcoming ‘community’ spaces where people can access support at their own pace. However, success was dependent on SIP partners being able to recruit the ‘right’ staff, having the time and securing funding necessary to work in a relational way.

The next phase of the research will assess the longer-term impact of these approaches in improving material outcomes for people, and in particular supporting moves out of poverty; examine the relationship between SIP partners and wider statutory services; and explore the potential for the SIP partnership to influence the design and delivery of public services in Scotland.

The report published today covers findings from the first 18 months of the research, based on 66 in-depth interviews with leaders and staff from 12 SIP partners, their key stakeholders including statutory partners, and people who have received support from them.