In October 2013, the first Penderry Providers' Planning Forum/Network meeting took place on a very wet day at the Woodland Centre, Penllergare Valley Woods. The idea behind it was to assess the appetite for setting up a self-sustaining network of service providers that already delivered services in the Penderry wards. Its purpose was to consider planning provision together in order to optimise the use of local assets and resources. It was also about avoiding duplication as well as extending the provision offer according to need and aspiration.
In total 18 people from a wide variety of organisations and council departments delivering services in the area took part. Discussions centred on issues of cohesion and identified the need for providers to better understand each others' services.
Following the first meeting, Victoria Bancroft, Place Coordinator for Cynefin in Swansea, explained: "The need for this forum was identified by providers working in the area. Consultation with a wider group of providers and design of the forum was supported by Cynefin. It plays a vital and otherwise overlooked role in increasing communications between organisations and ultimately makes improvements for local residents."
A date and an agenda was set for a further meeting. At that meeting, a range of formats were tried and tested resulting in a regular, workable format that has been established in all of the meetings since (see notes from meetings to the right).
The Provider Planning Forum gave Cynefin the opportunity to better understand the services offered by various organisations. As a result, those with greater interest/stakeholding in specific local issues could be identified and invited to forge alliances with other agencies to find ways to tackle them.
Commenting in its achievements more recently, Victoria said "It has already formed a platform for a range of initiatives, through Cynefin and through direct connections between providers. I look forward to seeing the forum and its initiatives develop and create notable, lasting, positive impacts in the area."
Penderry Providers' Planning Forum is moving from strength to strength, the number of regular participants is growing and it is reaching out to a wider spectrum of participants. They currently include; education, employment, children's, families' & youth services, housing, community development, health, the private sector, community & environmental groups and local residents. Increased co-operation across services is evident and organisations are future-planning together. New initiatives eager to start work in the area take the opportunity to promote themselves and often gain; support, facilities and clients, fast-tracking their progress. Examples include Community First's LIFT project, Sustainable Swansea's Green Map, The Wales We Want's Big Conversation, Men's Sheds and the Council's Community Renewable Energy and Enterprise Scheme (CREES).
Participants say that they often save time writing emails as they know they'll bump into others at the forum and have more productive conversations. Some recognise that it offers time and space for creative problem solving conversations with others which they would struggle to and probably not otherwise initiate.
From Cynefin's viewpoint, the forum provides a central intelligence hub about the area from which other more specifically themed activity can be developed, supported and integrated. This gives those working on the ground greater creative decision-making opportunities and increases dynamism. Penderry ward is being identified from a place perspective and those involved are developing a sense of vision for it through enhanced relationships and networks.
During this final year, Cynefin-facilitated groups need to converge, to create the greatest exchanges of links to the various services that can positively impact across the area, to share external and internal views, to engage effectively with each other and many of the residents living in the area, some of whom already engage with these services and offering opportunities for those who do not.
The Penderry Provider Planning Forum continues as a central activity and the emphasis is on finding ways for it to continue in its current successful format beyond Cynefin's intervention.