What is the Reading Advice Forum?
The regular Reading Advice Forum gives all Organisations in the Reading area (both voluntary and statutory) who provide Information and Advice to the public, a platform to meet and exchange ideas, information, and best practice. It is open to RAN Members and non-Members.
Each Forum focuses on a different issue of shared concern suggested by RAN Members.
The Forum also informs our work of representing the sector to local policy makers: we aim to be "the collective voice of RAN Members to shape service provision". All our Past Forums resulted in the production of reports which were sent to local policy-makers.
Our work, is supported, but not funded by, Reading Borough Council (RBC) with whom we have now built close collaborative relations. For example, this was demonstrated by presentations by RBC staff at our Third Forum on Partnerships and Networking, at our Fourth Forum on Homelessness and at our Seventh Forum on Debt, plus their employees' attendance as participants at other Forums.
These relationships with RBC and other Public Sector partners will continue to strengthen if we continue to be supported by the Voluntary Sector in Reading, including our Members; this, in turn, will allow RAN to constructively use our voice on behalf of all those in need of Information and Advice.
Our First Forum focused on the main social policy issues arising in our Members' work with the different peoples and communities of Reading. This was a deliberate decision: we wanted to better understand the landscape within which we are operating.
Subsequent forums have covered areas of concern or interest from our Members: Mental Health, Partnerships, Homelessness, Universal Credit, Advocacy services in Reading, and Debt.
Although RAN will guide the topics suggested and try to create Forums of interest to a wide variety of Voluntary Sector organisations, albeit with priority on Information & Advice-focused organisations, we will always try to predict or respond to trends where we spot issues of wide concern.
We also try to summarise and, where appropriate, publish the outcomes of the Forum. Sometimes this 'publication' can include formal reports to the local policy bodies. If you want more information about outcomes of any of our previous forums, please Contact Us.
To learn more, please look at the list of our Past Forums and the use we made of the information we gathered.
A typical Forum
Although no two Forums are exactly alike, they are similar; they generally start with one or more short presentations from leaders in the sector, or from organisations close to the issue under discussion. These focus on the key issues of the topic at hand in order to steer the Forum's discussion.
Presentations are followed by facilitated small group discussions. These may be the most valued part of the Forum, allowing all participants to exchange ideas and information and helping with the formation of partnerships and closer working relations. These discussions give participants the time to pause and think more widely about the challenges faced by their clients and what might be done to change things to help improve lives. We try to take notes of the non-confidential portions of these discussions and publish those as part of our summary of the Forum on our Past Forums page.
Finally, the Forum concludes with an "open platform" for all to express opinions, feedback concerns and ideas that emerged from their group discussion, as well as share relevant news and information more widely. We also ask for topic ideas for future Forums and always seem to have more than we can immediately cover (a good thing). Generally, the RAN Board of Trustees helps to prioritise these topic ideas, planning at least one Forum in advance whenever possible.