Unpicking the stickiest issues of the public sector: the beginning of the journey for CDC & Capacity

Unpicking the stickiest issues of the public sector: The beginning of the journey for CDC & Capacity

Every year programmes are run across the country focusing on ‘innovation’ in health, social care, and other public sector fields. Sometimes that word gets so overused that those being invited can struggle to clearly understand the ask of them.
We know we’re not short on creativity across the LCR, but often the problems solutions are designed to address are misunderstood. For ideas to be adopted, businesses and the voluntary sector need to start by developing their knowledge and awareness of the environments, culture and sector intricacies, that make these problems so difficult to solve.

So, there was a need, a need to bring together businesses with the public and third sector: with the people who’ve studied, or have actually been working within these problems, to explore deeper and develop more fit-for-purpose solutions as a collective.  
By trying to better understand the public sector’s biggest challenges, we could better design new products and services that meet them.
This wasn’t just about opening doors between the sectors; it was about taking them off the hinges!
And with that, the Civic Data Cooperative’s ‘What’s your problem?’ series was created.


About Civic Data Cooperative

Civic Data Cooperative (CDC for short) is a data-sharing platform that enables better health and care for people everywhere.

Funded by the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, the CDC aims to mobilise civic data sets across the Region to create a vibrant, internationally visible civic data environment – allowing residents’ data to work harder for them in shaping better care and fuelling globally important innovations from the LCR.


What did CDC want to achieve?

CDC wanted to support people and organisations to better understand and act in the best way possible on the insights that civic data showed. They had a mission to help provide innovative solutions to real life problems, facilitating access to open sources of data and testing models for ethical and inclusive health of data.


How Capacity helped

In September 2021, CDC launched their ambitious programme ‘Design Thinking for Health’, with the desire to get under the skin of the role that SMEs play in using data when designing solutions for public services. This complex and complicated landscape required unpicking for CDC to understand how they could contribute to the LCR in order to bring about real meaningful change and impact.

This was first product CDC launched and alongside delivering the programme. It also created the opportunity for CDC to build their culture, release their brand and establish themselves as a leading player in the role of data in public services and the SME economy in LCR.

To support the delivery of this programme, CDC commissioned the help of Capacity, who have engaged with a diverse number of stakeholders, designed the campaign, delivered the programme and used the insights to shape the development of CDC’s culture and future.

How we listened and how we acted

By working jointly with CDC, we were able to listen and engage with key stakeholders across the region to gather insights and start some solution-based thinking of how best to use civic data to create better public and third sector experiences for the communities effected by them.

With this, our project was made up of 5 key components:

  1. Stakeholder Engagement:

By gathering insights and understanding both the challenges and opportunities for SMEs designing service facing solution – we were able to listen and present findings in a cohesive insights report. These insights fuelled our first engagement event…

  1. ‘What’s your problem?’ the launch event:

By using our previous research, we were able to bring together a diverse group of stakeholders from across the LCR to help find the biggest problems our public services face. From our conversations on the day, we then launched…

  1. ‘What’s your problem?’ webinars:

These events were tailored to our listening and the biggest issues presented in the ‘What’s your problem?’ launch event and included practical and theoretical advice to best support SMEs to better create data led solutions to support public and third sector services.

Partners for these webinars included ORCHA Heath, Liverpool City Region Growth Platform and the LCR Finance Hub.

Through this practical learning, SMEs were able to pitch for…

  1. ‘What’s your problem?’ – the finals (application stage):

SMEs now had the opportunity and knowledge to best pitch an idea that speaks to one of the themes that emerged from the og ‘What’s your problem?’ launch event. Pitching businesses were supported directly by Capacity throughout with the chance to win the final prize of a £60k shared seed fund prize pot – in addition to some invaluable connections to help get their solution and ideas off the ground, which were chosen at the…

  1. ‘What’s your problem? the finals’ – roundtable event:

This finals event brought together an impressive panel of experts to un-pick and critique the strongest SMEs solutions as part of the application. Our panel of experts then chose three businesses/organisations to support with their presented ideas as the first official ‘What’s your problem?’ series came to a close.

The change we helped make

By supporting CDC with their programme, we were able to successfully link-up SMEs and growing organisations with not only public and third sector services, but also with some of the most influential decision makers and commissioners from across the whole of the LCR.

The ‘What’s your problem?’ series has also disrupted the approach to design thinking. Putting problems before the solution, creating fixes that actually fit the problem.

And of course, we were able to support our finalists: Damibu, Koala NW and Spacious Place Life through the programme, who are now continuing to develop their work with the support of CDC and their funding.

What’s next?

Well, we now know there are some pretty big problems that the region still faces, so our work together isn’t quite done yet!

CDC and Capacity will continue to work together on ‘What’s your problem?’ – round 2 later in the year, but in the meantime, we are collaborating on a new exciting problem which will take place right in the heart of our communities.

Want to know more? Why not check out our full insights report below (grab a brew for the nitty gritty detail of the programme!)

Transforming Early Help in Wirral

“Imagine you’re ripping it up and starting again, what could we do differently?”

TRANSFORMING EARLY HELP IN WIRRAL, the start of the Family Toolbox story…

In early 2019, the Capacity team sat down with Wirral Council’s Early Help leads to kick-off a new project to truly shift how the borough approached support for local families. As we started work, an interim programme of support was in place – delivered by a brilliant network of third sector organisations, doing amazing new things. From the outset we wanted to support them to be the best providers they could be, asking them to help steer our project as we tested out new approaches.

This initial project, called ‘Community Matters’, was a strand of Early Help and had been setup earlier that year, at its core was a key insight – a knock on the door from a Social Worker is not what many parents want or need when family life is becoming difficult. Initially the team at Wirral asked us to complete a piece of work alongside families, communities and their own colleagues. Together, we wanted to start by understanding the real needs of local people and to put this at the heart of a complete redesign of their approach. This was driven by a desire to refocus the work of the Children’s Services department and place more weight on supporting families as early as possible. Led by Assistant Director for Early Help, Elizabeth Hartley, the vision was to focus not on doing things ‘to’ families but on moving the power into their hands.

We didn’t just want an improved version of what we had – that’s why we didn’t involve professionals in the first year because that’s what we’d have ended up with - everyone’s wedded to ‘they’re good at what they do or they’re not’ and that’s the problem. Getting people to realise when parents have a bad experience - we all own that.”
Elizabeth Hartley
Assistant Director for Early Help

So this brings the story of why Community Matters and our TRANSFORMING EARLY HELP IN WIRRAL, the start of the Family Toolbox story… read the journey so far below. 

Juno gears up its team and partners with UCLan

Juno Branding

Juno gears up its team and partners with UCLan

We are thrilled to announce that We Are Juno CIC partnered up with the University of Central Lancashire [UCLan] as we build our teams and service – with our first home due to open in late 2022/early 2023!

Juno Branding
Following on from our recent investments from Wirral Council, The National Lottery Fund, KPMG Foundation and Segelman Trust (see Changing Children’s Homes for GOOD), Juno can now announce UCLan as our appointed Evaluation Partners.
Lowis Charfe, Senior Lecturer for the MA in Social Pedagogy Leadership and Professor Cath Larkins, Co-Director of the Centre for Children and Young People’s Participation at University of Central Lancashire, will work alongside Juno’s Young Leaders and the staff team to evaluate the effectiveness of our project in its first year. Lowis and Cath are committed to supporting positive changes in care experienced children and young people’s lives and bring a great deal of skill, care, imagination and experience; we’re delighted to welcome them as part of the Juno family.
As well as appointing our Evaluation Partner, we have recently appointed a new Director of Care to help lead and shape our future homes, together with the support of Juno founders – public services redesign agency, Capacity. Now, we are looking to bring more great people into the team who are passionate about redefining better children’s care for the future.
Juno are now on the lookout for:
  • A Registered Manager, to manage and develop our first home in the Wirral.

  • A diverse team of caring people who will enrich the lives of the young people they are supporting every day.

  • A team of Young Leaders- care experienced young people who will voice and shape the development of all of our homes, making sure that the care model really works for those who need it most – children and young people!


Sophie Clarke, Children’s Director at Capacity said “We’re deeply committed to creating a new and incredible service for young people growing up in children’s homes in Liverpool City Region. Of course, it’s no surprise (especially after the news of the recent care review) that how we deliver care for our most vulnerable young people and children locally and across the nation is in the need of a desperate shake up. We believe we are starting to build something truly special with the work we are doing for We Are Juno CIC and to keep this momentum up, we need great people on our team.

“We’re delighted to have partnered with UCLAN and we look forward to building the rest of the team. We can’t stress enough that we don’t want this just to be ‘fresh-look’ masking an old hat approach. We want to be different, challenge ourselves and make the biggest difference we can, listening closely to what young people are telling us most needs to change. If there are people out there who want to be part of this movement and campaign for real change, then we want them as part of the Juno team!”
Over the next five years, we plan to open ten local homes for children, starting with our first home in Wirral to open in late 2022/early 2023.

Changing Children’s Homes for GOOD!

Changing Children’s Homes for GOOD

Capacity has supported its partner, We Are Juno CIC, to secure £1m in loan funding and over £600k grant funding to kick-off a transformational model of Children’s Residential care.

Every year in the Liverpool City Region over 300 new care placements are made for children into residential care, with nearly half of these being made outside of our region. On the back of these statistics in 2019, Capacity started working with local, care-experienced young people and the commissioners who are responsible for their care with the aim to develop a higher quality, non-profit driven and financially sustainable model of children’s homes for the region – (with young people’s voices at the heart of its design!)

Juno has been designed to move focus in children’s residential homes away from profit, offering alternatives in the residential market. And, as a social enterprise, it’ll use a profit reinvestment model for good, including a plan in the longer-term to put funding into projects that prevent local children needing residential care; helping to redesign better children’s homes for the future.

Capacity, as the development partner of Juno, is proud to announce that we’ve helped secure over £1.5m investment funding to get the model moving forward. These initial funders will each play a key role in helping to mobilise phase one of the project and turn Juno from an idea into a working organisation with operational children’s homes…

A big thank you to Juno’s funders:

  • Wirral Council: who have provided a loan of £1m to support in establishing working capital.  
  • The National Lottery: who have provided grant funding of £250k over 2 years to fund independent evaluation of the project and focus on accessing additional investment and funding. In addition, they have funded key aspects of the operational model to invest in co-production with care experienced young people and Social Pedagogy training for the staff team. The National Lottery Community Fund distributes money raised by National Lottery players, who raise more than £30 million each week for good causes across the UK.
  • And, The Segelman Trust: who have donated £75k over 3 years and the KPMG Foundation £300k over 3 years for unrestricted development support. Both these grants will allow Juno to invest in quality teams and buildings from the outset.


Chris Catterall CEO of Capacity said “Our team and I are absolutely thrilled to achieve not one but four different awards of funding in recent months for Juno. We can’t make this vision a reality without them believing and investing in us. We’re now rolling our sleeves up and making the transformational ideas of care experienced young people across LCR a reality”.

Over the next five years, Juno plans to open ten local homes for children, starting with their first home in Wirral to open in late 2022/early 2023. To find out more, check out the new Juno website at https://www.wearejuno.org/

REGROUP: How to crack company culture


“How to crack company culture”

(SPOILER: it’s less about what you say, and more about what you do) 

With Katy Leeson, former MD of Social Chain, Lesley Dixon, CEO of PSS and Dave Sweeney Exec Director of Partnerships at Cheshire and Merseyside Health and Care Partnership  

Date: Thursday 16th June, 2pm – 4.30pm 

What does ‘a great culture’ really mean, and how do you get one?  

This topic comes up every working day at Capacity, whatever type of project we’re delivering it’s often the foundation that either enables or blocks change. In the last ten years we’ve all become more aware of its importance, of the need to create exciting and happy workplaces that make going to work enjoyable not a chore. That’s the expectation of most employees today, and right now, after the most pivotal change we have seen in working history, the ‘great resignation’ means we’ve got to think about the connections between great culture and great leadership and deliver on the promises we make.  

We want to use this event to really understand this word ‘culture’. Often overused, (and often misunderstood) it’s one of those topics that can be difficult to plan for, after all it’s less about the ‘what we do’ and much more about ‘how we do it’. Search online today for ‘great company culture’ and you’ll find a hundred books you can read, TED talks you can watch and inspirational stories you can follow, but where do you even start? We all know it’s not something that happens overnight – it’s something that takes planning, graft and absolute unwavering commitment.  

On the day, we’ll be talking to three leaders from the North West, people who know what it takes to build amazing places to work (don’t worry we checked they’re staff think it’s a great place to work too). As leaders who know a good bit about high levels of employee engagement and feedback, we’ll find out more about what it means to them and their teams, the work that they’ve done and the platforms and potholes they’ve found along the way.  

Katy Leeson

Katy has an impressive record of leading and inspiring meaningful change both within her most recent role as MD of Social Change and through her client work. She believes culture and values are the most important thing a leader can focus on, that great ‘buzz’ of an ambitious workplace, one with clear ambition and vision. Katy supports organisations to think about the role of culture in attracting the best talent, and the importance for leaders to have a commitment to those ways of working to not only recruit but retain the people they want.

Lesley Dixon

Lesley has been a CEO in the third sector in Liverpool for the last 10 years, transforming the now 103-year-old PSS in terms of direction and culture. With staff engagement levels to envy, Lesley will share her key insights from the journey she’s been on, the challenges along the way and what she thinks are the most important considerations if you truly want to create a place people love working in.

Dave Sweeney

Dave has 24 years’ experience working in Health and Social care, and (put simply) his job is all about getting people to work well together, whether that’s within internal teams or across projects. Dave’s a true ‘people person’ with a unique approach to his public sector role. His ability to connect with others and keep them motivated is critical as his teams face the steep challenges that come with working within the NHS. s on, that great ‘buzz’ of an ambitious workplace, one with clear ambition and vision. Katy supports organisations to think about the role of culture in attracting the best talent, and the importance for leaders to have a commitment to those ways of working to not only recruit but retain the people they want.

REGROUP for 2022 is back!

REGROUP is back for 2022!

How is it March already?!
This year is moving by quickly!


We’ve took the time to speak to many leaders over the past couple of years, and we don’t know one CEO, Director or Senior Manager that hasn’t spent a good bit of it in fire-fighting mode.

As we all know, that often means leaving those things you’d usually do (the things that are about developing yourself, your networks and thinking for the longerterm) off the ‘must-do’ list!

The feedback we’ve had has told us that hearing from some of the top voices in business, charity and public services was just what the doctor ordered – that it gave a touch of inspiration and advice when you needed it.

So, we’ve had a long think and we’ve decided – we’re not going to stop at speaker events, we’re turning REGROUP 2022 into a broader, more interactive range of events and tools that are free to anyone working in public and/or community services in the North West and Wales.  

This year, we will be bringing you a mix of:   

  • Keynotes: These sessions run for up to one hour and feature speakers who share our values and visions for public services. They generally talk about their experiences in their particular sector and at the end take part in a Q&A with their audience. These will be held typically online as a lunchtime session, so you can have your lunch as you have a listen.  

  • Huddles: These small round table sessions have targeted invite lists focused around key themes, and by being part of the REGROUP network (and registering your areas of interest) you’ll be on our radar as booking are made. These events will be led by an facilitator (and expert on the topic at hand) from the Capacity team and on occasion a special guest to stimulate discussion.  

  • Socials:  These events are designed to bring sector leaders and decision makers across multiple industries together in a more relaxed environment. The aim is to create connectivity across organisations and leaders, and to unpick those barriers/blockers together.

  • Stories: As leaders it’s so easy to get lost in the day job, so each Friday afternoon we love to put things into perspective. Every month we will share a story to remind you of the impact you and your teams are having on real people. So, as you close that laptop for the weekend you can remind yourself that all your hard work is worth it.


So, what to do now? Well, keep an eye on our website and socials for some new and exciting events to be announced very soon!

Capacity Associate Roles

Capacity Associate Roles

We’re on the lookout for some brilliant Associates to join the team…

  • Excited by the prospect of working on an ever-changing portfolio of projects across health and social care?
  • Specialist in a key commercial area such as service design, impact management or marketing and communications?
  • Great at quickly acquainting yourself with new projects and people?
  • Capacity is looking to recruit specialist associate team members who can support projects on an ad-hoc basis, as and when briefs fit their expertise and availability.

Are you:

  • An impact specialist? (We call them “data crunchers”).
  • A marketing and communications whiz? (We call them “storytellers”).
  • A delivery mastermind? (We call them “project managers”.)
  • A community engagement expert? (We call them “listeners”).
  • A tech-minded design guru? (We call them “digital innovators”).
  • A public service specialist? (We call them “service designers”).
  • A veteran leader? (We call them “mentors”).

If you’d like to learn more about any of these opportunities, get in touch via joinus@thisiscapacity.co.uk to speak to one of our Project Leads, who will identify areas of need across our current projects and match them with your skillset and experience.

Capacity CEO, Chris Catterall joins Local Trust Board

Picture of East Cleveland Big Local

Capacity CEO, Chris Catterall joins Local Trust Board

Picture of East Cleveland Big Local

Our CEO, Chris Catterall is one of four new trustees who have been appointed to place-based investment charity Local Trust’s Board.  These appointments now bring a wealth of experience and knowledge from a range of disciplines including local government, property development and national policy. 

Joining Chris on the Board of trustees are:

  • Matt Bell, Corporate Affairs Director at global property business Grosvenor
  • Patrick Melia, Chief Executive of Sunderland City Council
  • Charlotte Pickles, Director of think tank, Reform

David Warner, Chair of Local Trust said: “This is a crucially important time for Local Trust. Over the past few years, the charity has taken rich learning from the communities it supports across the country to drive change to champion community-led investment and drive even further change.

Now, with the end our strategy in sight, we are really pleased to be joined by four individuals from across the country with completely different experience and perspectives. Their knowledge and skills will be invaluable in helping us, not only meet our aims, but ensure that community power is firmly on the national agenda now and beyond 2026, so all neighbourhoods have the opportunity to flourish.

Chris added: “I am thrilled to be joining the Local Trust Board. This is a very important time to work as closely as we can with our local communities and make sure we listen to the challenges they are facing.

Through place-based investment we have the chance to make some real and impactful change and I look forward to working with Local Trust to achieve this.”

The appointments come at a strategically important time for the charity, as it seeks to maximise the impact of its work and secure a legacy beyond 2026, when its pioneering community-led investment programme Big Local, is set to complete.

Funded by the National Lottery Community Fund and delivered by Local Trust, Big Local is a resident-led funding programme providing people in 150 areas in England, that have historically missed out on funding, with £1.15m each to spend across 10 –15 years to create lasting change in their neighbourhoods.

The four new Trustees will be formally appointed at the organisation’s Annual General Meeting in November 2021

REGROUP with Jon Yates

Jon Yates

with... Jon Yates

The last 18 months have been some of the most challenging our sectors have faced. We’ve seen families devasted, professionals burned out and systems overwhelmed, what good can come from that? It’s been a heavy price to pay but increasing recognition of our public and third sector (of long-standing underfunding and undervaluing of colleagues) has rocketed and that is something to we at Capacity want to help maintain. Therefore, we’ve decided to both celebrate and stimulate this recognition with a series of events that will run from September to November this year – the REGROUP ‘Never More Needed’ series.

The full programme is still being finalised and will be winging its way to your inbox shortly, but in the meantime, I’m delighted to announce our first speaker, Jon Yates. Jon has a vast amount experience on both the commissioner and provider side of youth services, playing key roles in national policy development and project leadership with the Department of Education, founding sector leading youth organisations and now working as Executive Director the Youth Endowment Fund. Jon’s was ahead of most in seeing the potential this pandemic had to achieve something positive and his perfectly timed book ‘Fractured’ presents us as designers, commissioners and providers of public services with much food for thought as we reflect on the pandemic and its ability to unite people across all walks of life. The book and Jon’s thinking is based on the principle that ‘what unites us is stronger than what divides us’ and we believe this thinking and way of living is a great mantra for us to take into the coming years as our societies, and our sectors, start to recover.

The event will take place via Zoom on Friday 10th September at 10am, so keep it free if you can. To save you the task of cut and pasting this information across we’ll send you a diary invite over the next few days.

We really hope you can join us to in the first of this new series, I look forward to seeing you there.

Just email Chris Witterick at chris.witterick@capacitylab.co.uk to book your place  

New programme launching to support Region’s brightest up-and-coming social entrepreneurs

New programme launching to support Region’s brightest up-and-coming social entrepreneurs

The new Emerge social enterprise programme will see fifteen students embark on an eight -week journey to build a new social enterprise or community business that will directly support local people and improve the relationship between Liverpool’s local communities and the students who live there short-term while studying at the University.

The programme, which begins in February, will be delivered by the Capacity team across eight weekly workshops and will see students learn about:

  • community consultation,
  • feasibility studies,
  • business planning,
  • financial modelling,
  • communications,
  • governance,
  • business development,
  • fundraising and,
  • impact.

At the end of the programme, students will pitch their social enterprise idea back to the community and lay down a realistic timeframe for its delivery. The overall aim of the programme will be to promote better awareness between students and their neighbours and will mark the start of a sustainable social enterprise that exists to educate students who move into these communities in the future.

Chris Witterick, Partnerships Manager at Capacity, said:

I am delighted to be working with the University of Liverpool to the deliver the third Emerge programme. After two fantastic years developing the city’s next generation of entrepreneurs, we will be supporting a new cohort of students to conceive and launch a community business which will directly improve people’s lives. The programme will mostly be delivered by the Capacity team, who have a range of different skills and work closely with some of the city’s most impactful community organisations. This is our most ambitious programme yet, but I can’t wait to get started!
Chris Witterick
Partnerships Manager
Meanwhile, Emma More, Director of Careers & Employability at The University of Liverpool added:
I am excited that we have once again been able to renew our partnership with Capacity to develop future entrepreneurs firmly rooted in the Liverpool City Region. As we enter the third year of the Emerge programme, it is great to see an increased focus on social enterprise, combining Capacity’s skillset with the passion of many of our students. A perfect programme for this time of recovery when an increased focus on ‘community’ is more important than ever.
Emma Moore
Director of Careers & Employability, University of Liverpool