The Reading Advice Network (RAN) came about from the efforts of several charities in the Reading area who felt there was the need for greater collaboration and information sharing between them, particularly in response to changes in the national political landscape which, by 2013, was rolling out extensive austerity measures.
RAN started as a two year “Project” funded by the Big Lottery and Cabinet Office. As the Project funding was drawing to a close, several members felt that there was a need for a continuing umbrella organisation to focus on:
- Improving the quality of the Information and Advice provided to the people and communities of Reading – and signpost to our quality assured Member organisations.
- Build better bridges between statutory and voluntary organisations who provide Information and Advice by creating a platform to meet and exchange ideas and best practice.
- Be the collective voice of the Information and Advice Sector, working towards improving services from local statutory bodies by directly communicating with them experiences of the “repercussions” of their policy decisions.
To achieve this, we created the Reading Advice Network as an ongoing, charitable organisation with the above objectives. RAN now has Quality Standard for our Members, we organise regular Advice Forums and develop subsidised training courses to ensure that our Members (and any appropriate Information and Advice-giving organisation) can constantly improve the services they provide to their clients.
Our work on Quality Standards
Although we do not provide information and advice to the public ourselves, our most important role is to improve the quality of the Information and Advice offered to the people and communities of Reading.
We are supported in this by Reading Borough Council who have made membership of RAN and it's expectation that all Members will attain the RAN Quality Standard Certificate, a requirement for all organisations providing Information and Advice, when applying grants from them.
We strongly believe in our Member organisations.
We are keen to help our website visitors reach the right organisation for them through our “Need Advice?” pages.
Providing a platform
Our Advice Forums are designed to provide those who give Information and Advice to their clients the opportunity to meet, share ideas and best practice.
We help our Members form partnerships and collaborate with us to make strong and meaningful representations to policy makers, highlighting areas where policies or practices are ineffective or failing. Collectively, RAN and our Members develop suggestions about how to improve policy, which fits the third of our aims and objectives.
The collective voice of the Information and Advice sector
This third objective - to be the “collective voice” of the Information and Advice sector - allows us to use the experience of Forum participants to make an impact on policy decisions. Collectively we improve the dialogue between the statutory and voluntary sectors focussed on Information and Advice.
We do this through conversations with policy-making bodies and by bringing together the different organisations in our open Advice Forums.
We have had and continue to have success in this: Outcomes from out very First Forum details the start of improved relationships; our Third Forum was attended by appropriate Reading Borough Council staff.
As a direct result of these active interventions, we helped broker a meeting between RBC and one of our Member organisations to create a referral process directly through RBC staff.
We expect to report more successful collective action as our reputation and Membership grows.