No Going Back

No Going Back helps prison leavers build productive lives, and is proving that Livery Companies - in partnership with other expert organisations - can learn and change more when collaborating.

Serena Hedley-Dent, Johnny Robertson, Fran Findlater and Susan Barry

Pioneering collaboration between Livery Companies

There are 110 Livery Companies in London, from the Mercers to the Arts Scholars. Not many people know that, among Livery Companies’ other work, we collectively comprise the fifth biggest philanthropic funder in the UK.

However, Livery Companies haven’t historically collaborated much when it comes to funding. That started to change in 2018, with the formation of the Pan Livery Initiative to explore closer collaboration. This, in turn, led to No Going Back: the first funding collaboration involving a significant number of Livery Companies.

No Going Back is a programme providing prison leavers with support, training, jobs, accommodation and more. Our 2020 pilot programme was supported by thirteen Livery Companies, with nearly thirty supporting year two. A Steering Group sets the strategy, with delivery partner Bounce Back facilitating the programme. We’re also in the process of founding a social enterprise specialising in construction-site cleaning, to provide job opportunities for service users.

Our primary aim is to help prison leavers build a productive life and reduce recidivism rates, and to do so more effectively than we could working individually. Identifying an issue many Livery Companies have experience and interest in has been crucial in mobilising the collaboration and sustaining engagement.

A secondary aim is to demonstrate the value and relevance of Livery Companies, using impactful work to correct the view (a misguided one, we think) that we are insular and outdated.

The funder plus model has been helpful in shaping the collaboration. Although the Livery Companies jointly fund No Going Back, we do much more besides, providing expertise, job opportunities, strategic input and mentoring.

A portrait photo of the author

Promising early learnings and outcomes

No Going Back is already showing promise. Our 2020 pilot helped 50 service users find jobs and (where needed) accommodation, exceeding our target of 40. None of those 50, who finished the programme in July, have reoffended. It’s early days, but given how high reoffending rates typically are (we recommend the Prison Reform Trust's Bromley Briefings for facts and figures about that), this is promising.

Collaborating has been key to this early success. Having a wide-ranging Steering Group, in particular, means tapping into more ideas, expertise, resources and opportunities from across the Livery Companies. This underpins more personalised support and a more robust programme, as does the fact that we’ve been able to raise more money collectively than we would have alone. Bounce Back, which has considerable expertise delivering such programmes, agrees that diverse, proactive Steering Group input has improved the programme, even if it means more ideas for them to triage!

Collaborating has also benefited the Livery Companies. Livery staff have learned a lot by working together as an ecosystem - especially around how other Livery Companies work, what a ‘funder plus’ model looks like and how to set up a social enterprise (something liveries have had varying levels of experience with). It’s been really empowering to see what Livery Companies can achieve together, and to lay the foundations of future collaboration and cooperation. 

The funder plus model - the idea that funders should go ‘beyond the money’ - has been helpful in shaping the collaboration. Although the Livery Companies jointly fund No Going Back, we do much more besides, providing expertise, job opportunities, strategic input and mentoring where appropriate.

Working in a partnership between Livery Companies, Bounce Back - who had already worked with some Livery Companies - and two evaluation partners has also been helpful. We all bring different expertise, and independent evaluation has helped us identify improvements.

Covid-19 has of course presented a huge challenge, not least because much of our frontline delivery either couldn’t happen or needed to be dramatically reconsidered. That No Going Back is having a positive impact nevertheless is a huge testament to the goodwill and commitment of the Steering Group, Bounce Back and all involved - a key enabling factor.

Ultimately No Going Back has already demonstrated the value of Livery Companies pooling their funds, expertise and drive to improve society. Long may this collaboration deepen.

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