The Practice Development Unit (PDU) is run by Nottingham Council for Voluntary Services (NCVS) in partnership with Opportunity Nottingham. Opportunity Nottingham is part of the national ‘Fulfilling Lives Programme’ funded by the National Lottery Community Fund. The PDU was established in October 2017 and its mission is to work towards the creation of a “thriving and connected workforce,” aiming to:

  • Improve the skills and knowledge of professionals working in the field of multiple disadvantage.
  • Facilitate the sharing of expertise, good practice and resources across sectors.
  • Promote and facilitate collaborative learning across sectors.
  • Create opportunities for promoting innovation and working practices across Nottingham.
  • Improve outcomes for beneficiaries through contributing to system change and increased coordination and collaborative working between agencies.

At the core of the PDU’s activity, is a belief that the needs of people experiencing severe and multiple disadvantage are best met by services which operate within a connected, informed system. In recent years, the Human Learning Systems (HLS) approach (Lowe and Plimmer, 2019) has emerged as a challenge to established means of organising public services. HLS is seen to have at its core a fundamentally different set of beliefs and management practices which enable systems to engage with the messy reality of how outcomes can be achieved in real lives.

The aims of this evaluation were to:

  • Understand what impacts the PDU’s activities have had on the working practices and collaborative approaches of professionals and volunteers in Nottingham and Nottinghamshire.
  • Understand how supporting PDU activities has impacted on its contributors, including Steering Group members, event speakers, and volunteers with lived experience of multiple disadvantage.
  • Identify “unintended” or “unexpected” impacts of the PDU’s activity and analyse its potential to influence change outside of its core scope (“trickle-down effect” and opportunities for growth / further development).
  • Assess the success of the PDU in contributing to Opportunity Nottingham’s system change aims.
  • Understand if and how the PDU is promoting a Human Learning Systems (HLS) approach in Nottingham and Nottinghamshire

The evaluation was undertaken by BVSC Research and our partners Ideas to Impact.

Download the report