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Partnerships and networks

Through our work within communities, we understand where links exist and connections can be made. We bring groups together to influence, shape strategy and make decisions.

Watch our short animation to discover how.

Successful collaboration

We facilitate strategic collaboration to set direction and make decisions. Through their collective voice, groups have commissioned training for staff and volunteers, influenced decision makers and empowered individual organisations to have ‘a seat at the table'.

Photograph of a group of Open Mental Health patrners
Supporting mental health

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VCFSE Somerset Dementia Partnership

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Somerset Youth Work Alliance

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Reflect, recover, Renew
Reflect, Recover, Renew task and finish groups

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I have worked with Spark on many different projects over the last year and have seen the huge benefits that they provide to communities across Somerset. Their approach has always been inclusive, looking at how to work with others to deliver outcomes.

- Karen Prosser, NHS Foundation Trust

Local Community Networks

There are also opportunities for partnership working with our public sector colleagues, including Local Community Networks (LCNs).

These are groups that represent the local areas in Somerset, which were established April 2023 when the County Council became a unitary authority and district councils were dissolved.

There are 18 LCNs which include the town, city and parish councils in each area, as well as other important partners like the Police Service, VCFSE organisations, the health and social care sector, businesses, the Fire Service, educational establishments and members of the public. They encourage community engagement and development and each LCN will set its own priorities, based on the needs of the people living in their area. 

You can find more information about the LCNs, including frequently asked questions, a map of their boundaries, and future meeting dates on their website.

Connect Somerset

Connect Somerset is a Somerset Council funded project which supports 12 Area Champions to work in dedicated areas. The Champions work with the NHS, VCFSE organisations, Schools, Colleges and Early Years settings to encourage a collaborative, person-centred and community-based approach to supporting children and families.  Our Voluntary Sector Development Lead, Sharon Hale, is Area Champion for  Shepton Mallet and West Mendip.

The Memorandum of Understanding

In 2022 we published the Reflect, Recover, Renew report which was based on feedback from 190 groups and explored the impact of the pandemic on the VCFSE sector. One of the five key themes that emerged was the importance of a more co-ordinated approach.

Then, the transition from NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups to Integrated Care Boards (ICB) in July 2022, presented an opportune moment to achieve this as each ICB had to have a formally recognised way of working with the voluntary sector. In Somerset, the ICB is called NHS Somerset and this agreement is known as the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).

The MoU has been developed by NHS Somerset, Somerset Council, and the Somerset group of charities, and outlines our shared commitment to work better together. It was crucial that the Local Authority was also included in this process so that any framework for engagement encompassed the public sector – ensuring a more cohesive, co-ordinated approach. This was especially important due to the timing of Somerset’s council becoming a unitary authority in April 2023.

Shared commitment

The Memorandum of Understanding outlines a shared commitment by NHS Somerset, Somerset Council and the Somerset group of charities to work better together.

It was formally signed in September 2023 at an event attended by over 60 VCFSE and statutory sector representatives.



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Thank you for all your collective efforts to deliver today’s event and the MoU behind it. Universally positive feedback from everyone I spoke to, and a real commitment to do things differently.

- Jeff Brown, Service Manager, Stronger Communities, Somerset Council

The Engagement Framework

The Engagement Framework is a way of outlining how the public and voluntary sector will work together. As Spark Somerset is the CVS (Council for Voluntary Services) organisation for the county, some queries for engagement may come to us to ensure  the right organisations, networks and partnerships are involved. At the moment, the formal engagement framework is made up of three parts, which are all at different stages of development:

  • The Somerset VCFSE Assembly – a space where challenges can be shared, solutions found, and public sector colleagues can engage and listen
  • Board representatives – individuals from VCFSE organisations across the county who will be members of strategic public sector boards organised by the ICB and Somerset Council. These individuals will speak on behalf of the VCFSE sector
  • The Somerset Group of Charities

The framework exists as a front door to all the networks, partnerships, groups and individuals that sit within the VCSE sector. If you want to be involved, please get in touch.

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