NEVERENDUM – The Worst Possible Result

NEVERENDUM – The Worst Possible Result

The High Court ruling has thrown the government’s plans for Brexit into turmoil and with it the economic uncertainty and political crisis continues to grow. The case for further parliamentary scrutiny is strong and constitutionally the case for its necessity has been accepted by the courts.

However in real terms the country appears to be caught in a sort of constitutional-political-economic state of paralysis. The clear will of the people has been questioned in Scotland and Northern Ireland with some even questioning whether the UK will remain intact after its exit.

The whole issue has become something of a Neverendum with the course set for a Supreme Court Challenge, followed by months of uncertainty. With a total rethink of the negotiating strategy, the potential of a snap general election and the prospect of a longer  time scale the real losers will be the people. The uncertainty will cause socio-economic problems and a range of problems for businesses and organisations.

Let LEXXER Solutions help you navigate the uncertain waters and to Know How to suceed.   

Don’t Waste Your Time

Don’t Waste Your Time

Our friends at Third Sector have said what we have all been thinking but find it hard to say to clients – Don’t waste your time. Funding is a little like dating you may fall in love with a fund or trust and assume they will find your project and application simply irresistible however it is often unrequited. So like modern dating sites and apps there are often quite mechanical processes to see if you are compatible.

At LEXXER Solutions we often have to have that hard conversation and say ‘ its not them its actually you!’. However unlike real life dating you can change, you can get in shape you can reorganise yourself and sell yourself better. Then it may just be love at first sight!

Like dating there are some fundamental errors which we should all avoid, and the Third Sector team have summarised some of them.

The top 10 funding application errors

Many charities see their applications for funding be rejected
Many charities see their applications for funding be rejected

The Directory of Social Change estimates that ineligible applications made to the largest trusts in 2010 equated to seven years of wasted effort. This pointless exertion seems not to have lessened since then. According to the latest figures from the Big Lottery Fund, 46 per cent of applications to its Reaching Communities programme between May and July this year were ineligible. So where are charities going wrong? We asked funders to share their thoughts on why so many applications end up in the recycling bin.

1. Applying for grants you can’t possibly get

“If only they had read our eligibility criteria, they would clearly see we don’t fund that” is a perennial complaint from funders. Stephen Pittam, trust secretary of the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, which largely funds work that promotes peace and social justice, says: “We get applications to repair churches in East Anglia. We don’t fund in East Anglia and we don’t do building work on churches.”

The trust also gets a lot of applications from people who want to run welfare projects, even though it clearly states in its entry criteria that it does not fund such schemes.

Comic Relief has received applications on behalf of an HIV project in Tanzania for a fund that operates only in Stoke-on-Trent. The Big Lottery Fund has received applications to fund the installation of double glazing in houses.

2. Asking for too much money. Or not enough

Receiving applications for unrealistic sums of money is another bugbear of funders. Andy Winder, grants team manager at the Henry Smith Charity, a funder that tackles social and economic disadvantage, says its average grant size is about £80,000, but that does not stop organisations asking for a lot more. “People come and ask for £500,000,” he says. But the opposite can also be also true, according to Gilly Green, head of UK grants at Comic Relief. Some applicants ask for less money than they need in the mistaken belief that this will increase their chances of success. “It’s an assumption that’s not correct,” she says.

3. Providing too much information

The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust requests applications of no more than four pages, but has regularly received bids of more than double that length. “People often send in reams of paper,” says Pittam. John Taylor, head of the west midlands region at the Big Lottery Fund, says that it often receives applications that include appendices, photographs or additional reports. The funder has to go back to the charity to get it to resend the application, which only causes delay.

4. Avoid jargon and buzz words

Charities may be tempted to throw in a few of the latest buzz words or phrases, such as ‘localism’ or the ‘big society’, in their funding applications. The hope is that this will give them an edge – but it won’t. The BLF’s Taylor says: “It often hides what they are trying to do.” A reliance on acronyms also confuses. Taylor advises charities to apply in their own language. “Don’t feel that you’ve got to use a language you’re not used to,” he says.

5. Streams of consciousness and other stylistic problems

Funders may want charities to apply in their own words, but they still need to make sure those words are readable. Trusts are regularly faced with what Winder calls a “wall of words”. Funders work to deadlines and are often looking at 40 or 50 applications a week. Winder says: “Assessors are reading loads of applications and they often get confronted with something that has no paragraphs, really long sentences and very dense text. You look at it and think: ‘Oh my God.'” It is a good idea to ask someone not connected with your organisation to read your grant applications before they are sent to ensure they make sense.

6. The budget doesn’t add up

At the Institute of Fundraising’s recent National Convention, the suggestion that funding bids often contain budgets that don’t add up provoked consternation. But funders say that simple errors are surprisingly common. For example, a budget is itemised, detailing all the costs that the charity envisages, but the final amount has been added up wrongly. This isn’t always because charities can’t use calculators but because costs are amended – by, for example, the chief executive – and the final amount asked for remains unaltered.

7. An invitation to talk to the funder isn’t taken up

Large funders welcome phone calls to discuss potential projects. “We don’t want to waste people’s time,” says Pittam. “It’s always better to try to get a sense of whether something is going to be a possibility or not.” Despite requesting a prior conversation about all applications above £120,000, Green says that Comic Relief still gets unsolicited applications for projects requesting hundreds of thousands of pounds. She says: “If we’d had a conversation, we might have said we are quite interested in your work, but we are not going to fund you at that level.”

8. Forgetting to tailor the application to the funder

In the current harsh economic climate, charities are applying to ever more trusts and foundations to provide funding for their work. But in too many cases they’re not tailoring the applications to the individual funder. BLF’s Taylor says: “They are just using the same information, almost cutting and pasting it onto different application forms without actually looking at the questions the funder is asking.

“I can understand why that happens, but it actually means their application is less likely to be successful.”

9. Assuming the funder knows all about you

You and your colleagues may know all about your charity and its aims, but don’t expect the outside world to know what you do. Too many charities make the assumption that the funder is familiar with their work, or they are so engrossed in the work they do that they forgot to provide a basic explanation. Taylor says: “My sense is that people are often very passionate about their project and therefore don’t describe the very basic things about who the beneficiaries are, what the project does, how they do it and what impact they have. They are so close to it that they almost take too much for granted.” Green warns that assuming funders have knowledge of your work is a dangerous thing.

10. What difference will you make?

Where applications often disappoint, say funders, is in the elaboration of the change they hope to bring about. According to the BLF, the main reason applications are rejected lies in failing to show how the lives of beneficiaries will be improved. Pittam says: “So many applicants don’t give an explanation about the strategy for achieving change or a clear indication of what they are trying to achieve.” Funders want a cohesive story, says Green, including evidence of demand for a charity’s services and the outcomes it will create. “Very often the latter parts just fall away,” she says.


… but funders are not without fault

According to a book published in March, charities waste more than £100m a year on making duplicated or unnecessary reports to foundation and government funders. Caroline Fiennes, director of donor consultancy Giving Evidence and author of It Ain’t What You Give, It’s The Way That You Give It, says a quarter of the estimated £410m charities spend on reporting to funders is unnecessary expenditure. Sue Robinson, a trainer with the Institute of Fundraising and former fundraiser with Sense Scotland, says that EU funds and some Big Lottery Fund grant streams ask for receipts for every item. “If you’re claiming for volunteer expenses, you have to show the bus ticket,” she says. “It’s ludicrous. If you have a large sum of money you almost have to employ someone purely to administer the budget.”

Robinson argues that good funding bids from charities that have good track records are sometimes rejected because funders don’t think that they have the administrative staff or software to manage the funds. She says: “They’ve invested their money in meeting the need they were set up to meet, but dealing with those big funders requires you to have a robust back office.

So if you want to find true funding love and make lots of little projects together come and see our matchmaking …… we mean our fundraising team today!


Knowledge at Work

Knowledge at Work

Today’s release of the Expert Panel’s Report headed by Rafael Bengoa shows how knowledge brokerage works on a grand scale.
Bringing international academic and expert knowledge to provide solutions for the crisis in health care represents the best possible approach.

The Tests for Test Cases

The Tests for Test Cases

LEXXER Law works within the wider context of a knowledge brokerage and can bring to bear a wider range of insights and ideas to its litigation strategies.
Many clients see litigation as the means and the end with their ‘day in court’ as the objective. However we see litigation as one battle in a larger war and as a result we approach it holistically.

If litigation is a key component then the crucial questions will be which case should be pursued and when and how it should be launched. 

The Litigating for Social Change Cinference hosted in Belfast addressed just this point and will inform our work entitled: The Tests for Test Cases. 

This toolkit will help communities charities and causes guidance on how to approach Test Cases and which issues best lend themselves to strategic litigation. 

How are Cases identified and selected, what ground work is required and which tactics need to be deployed and what should be avoided. 

Facilitating Philanthropy 

Facilitating Philanthropy 

As a firm we not only act for clients trying to source funding but also those wish to support change. Therefore this afternoon’s panel of top international Philantropic Foundations was particularly insightful. 

The high powered panel represented a group of key funders gave interesting insights into the sector from their perspective. 

Nick Grono, Chief Executive, Freedom Fund, Australia 

Erika Dailey, Senior Research Officer, Open Society Justice

Gail Birkbeck, The Atlantic Philanthropies 

Nicolette Naylor, Ford Foundation, South Africa

Martin O’Brien, Director, Social Change Initiative

The discussion was grounded in recent research findings which LEXXER finds most useful. Our access to the top funders in the sector gives us a clear and powerful insight into the minds and methods of existing funders. 

This is important for both those considering making applications and those who would like to use their funds to effect real change. 

Programme of Conference

Litigating for Social Change 

Litigating for Social Change 

Today lawyers and activists from across the globe met in Belfast to disuss how strategic litigation can effect real social change. 

The international conference was held in Assembly Buildings Conference Centre, Belfast, Northern Ireland. LEXXER Solutions have long been involved in matching legal Knowledge with groups and activists on the ground.

A joint project of Law Centre (NI), Social Change Initiative and The Atlantic Philanthropies, this international conference will bring together NGOs, community activists, litigators, academics and funders to reflect on how strategic litigation can transform lives and enable people and communities to realise their rights.
Conference purpose

With speakers from different geographic and legal settings, the conference aims to explore:

Lessons learnt from the use of test case litigation to date

Strategic litigation as a tool for promoting social justice

Models and approaches to supporting strategic litigation

The Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan welcomed delegates and gave a broad introduction to the legal issues locally. 

Are Lawyers the Future of Dealing with the Past

Are Lawyers the Future of Dealing with the Past

LEXXER LAW has long followed the debate about how best to deal with the past and the role of law in resolving the past. 

Today’s conference hosted by the The Lawyers, Conflict & Transition team was the final project conference and held at Queens University Belfast. 

A series of papers were presented covering the range of research and initiatives which addressed : Lawyers and Legal Ethics in Conflict and Transition; Lawyers and International Justice; Cause Lawyers and the Struggle for Justice; and Lawyers and Dealing with the Past.

A range of questions were posed about the role of law in societies dealing with transition. One of the most interesting concepts was legal space as a safe space for dealing with the past but questions were posed about just how much lawyers could be expected to do. 

LEXXER Solutions is currently working with a range of groups bringing academic and professional knowledge to bear on their work. We believe that such knowledge will give the advantage needed to help society as a whole to move forward. 

Just what the Doctor Ordered for the NHS

Just what the Doctor Ordered for the NHS

 Recent reports have been far from a clean bill of health for the NHS nationally or locally, and as part of of our knowledge brokerage work with local Queens based academics LEXXER Solutions has taken an active interest in the health of the health sector.

With a new Health Minister and a number of legacy projects from the previous Minister, reshaping services is a clear priority. The new Health Minister Michelle O’Neill MLA has said her priority is to reshape and refocus the future of health care services. We as a firm welcome the new approach which is based on consultation and quality research, and have a clear view of what needs to be done in terms of training and development to match the structural changes proposed.

Health Minister Michelle O'Neill
Health Minister Michelle O’Neill

Speaking on her first day Minister O’Neill said: “The north’s health and social care sector is the envy of many countries across the globe and there is much we should be proud of and thankful for. We are pioneering, innovative and patient focused, while remaining free at the point of delivery.

“Among my priorities in the time ahead will be the further development of all-island networks to tap into the benefits that cooperation on health and social care issues will bring to every part of this island. I will also place a focus on reducing health inequalities so that no matter where you live, you have the same chance of living a long and healthy life. Mental health is another area which I intend to prioritise and champion.

“There are many challenges to be faced in the time ahead.  More people are living longer with chronic conditions, unhealthy lifestyles create pressure on services and new developments in medical technologies and drugs are increasing demand and raising costs. And all of this in the context of the extreme financial pressures created by a Tory government committed to reducing public services. This means we must use the limited resources we have wisely.

“I intend to focus efforts to reshaping our health and social care sector to ensure we are as efficient and effective as we can be. We must have a firmer grip on the strategic direction of health care delivery in the north and make sure that we deliver the best possible healthcare for all patients. Professor Bengoa’s report, which will help shape the future of health care in the north, is expected in summer 2016. This report will lead the debate on how we can deliver a world-class health service and will form a key part of any change agenda. This, along with the structural reform of the health service, will see a major shift in the way we deliver services.

“We must all rise to this challenge and make the changes necessary to ensure our health service continues to deliver for those in greatest need. The message is simple – we cannot stand still; and we must evolve to survive.”

The Minister added: “I want to recognise the hard work, professionalism and skill of all the staff in the health and social care sector, the Ambulance and Fire Services.  I appreciate the pressured environment they work under and I am very grateful for the expert care they provide. I want to engage with staff from day one. I want to hear from them, I want to listen to their ideas and to any issues they have. It is through their passion and experience that we can keep the momentum of change going. I very much look forward to working with them.”

In conclusion Minister O’Neill said:  “I will strive to improve our health service in every way possible, whilst protecting what is already so good. It is a privilege for me to hold this post and I look forward to the challenges that lie ahead.”

The first step on what we term the “Road to Recovery” will be matching the structural changes with investment in the skills and job satisfaction of staff. At the heart of any health reforms must be Patients and the Professionals who care for them. At LEXXER Solutions we are working with local and international healthcare professionals and academics to provide solutions to the present problems facing the NHS.

LEXXER Solutions welcomes the Expert Panel’s Report

Health Minister Michelle O’Neill has received the report from the Expert Panel, tasked with considering the reconfiguration of Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland.

Health Minister Michelle O'Neill and Panel’s Chair Professor Rafael Bengoa
Health Minister Michelle O’Neill and Panel’s Chair Professor Rafael Bengo

An expert panel was established by her predecessor to help shape the future of health care in Northern Ireland. It was first suggested by Sir Liam Donaldson in his 2015 report which said there were too many hospitals and expertise was too thinly spread. Donaldson’s report highlighted duplication and pressed for a simpler, more efficient system.

There was a difference in opion as to whether the panel should be local or international and in time a compromise was reached with two international figures and four from Northern Ireland, chaired by Prof Rafael Bengoa who is director of the health department at the Deusto Business School in Spain.

Prof Rafael Bengoa
The panel will be chaired by Spanish health reform expert Prof Rafael Bengoa

He is regarded as a worldwide expert on health reform and has advised the European Union and the Obama administration.

Prof Bengoa previously worked for the World Health Organisation for more than 15 years.

He said that over the last 40 years, there had been a focus in health on “planning around structures instead of planning around patient needs and outcomes”.

“The important thing for us at the panel is to be thinking in outcome terms and then we see if there is any physical restructuring that is needed to fulfil those outcomes but not the other way around,” he added.

“The difference Northern Ireland is suggesting is that they are engaging both politically and technically on the long-term and so other countries are not doing that and that is why I think it is interesting to accept this invitation to lead the panel.”

Other panel members include two Northern Ireland-based doctors and two health service managers who are from Northern Ireland but now work in England.

They are;

  • Mairead McAlinden, chief executive of Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust. She is a former chief executive of the Southern Trust in Northern Ireland
  • Mark Taylor, consultant in general and hepatobiliary surgery and the current lead clinician at Belfast’s Mater Hospital
  • Alan Stout, east Belfast GP and deputy chairman of the Northern Ireland General Practitioners Committee
  • Bronagh Scott, deputy chief nurse for NHS England London region. She previously worked for the Northern Trust in Northern Ireland
  • Prof John Øvretveit, professor of healthcare innovation implementation and evaluation at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm


LEXXER Solutions welcomed the make up and the remit of the panel since it was and continues to be clear that health and social care is facing significant challenges in the coming years, and to date front line services have been feeling the strain

Northern Ireland’s population is increasing in size and is getting older. More people are living with chronic conditions, unhealthy lifestyles are creating more demand for services and new developments in medical technologies and drugs are increasing demand and raising costs. Add to this the legacy of the Troubles with communities coming to terms with the trauma of the violence and mental health presenting a unique problem here.

The need is for politics to be taken out of healthcare and an informed consensus reached. LEXXER Solutions as a knowledge brokerage stands best placed to bring the different strands of this process together. We can link the academic fields of both policy and practice where teaching and training can be developed to address problems. The professionals on the front line also need to be included as they see gaps in service and weaknesses in the structures that exist and those proposed. However it is often a strength as a broker to be outside the circle and able to draw the best ideas, the working knowledge, and established practice to create solutions which work.


We have now seen the the report completed, and the hard work of considering the financial and organisational implications now begins. The Minister has promised to publish her vision this autumn, alongside the Panel’s report, and is committed to translating the political and public discussion about reform of health and social care into concrete proposals for transforming these important services.”

Our Public Affairs Team LEX REX will be actively engaged this year in all the upcoming healthcare reforms including the Mental Health Capacity Bill. So if you are involved in the sector, and what an input into the shape of services in the future or simply want to be kept up to date speak to out team today.

Commenting on the presentation of the report, the Panel’s Chair, Professor Rafael Bengoa stated: “Today we have presented the Minister with our report.  I know I speak on behalf of my colleagues when I say that it has been a privilege to carry out this work and I hope that it will help to provide a sound basis for the reforms that need to happen.

“Our task has been to make recommendations on a future health and social care model which will deliver a financially sustainable service, providing high quality outcomes in the face of changing patterns of demand.  Patients have been at the heart of our interactions with all stakeholders and it is with them in mind that our recommendations propose a sustainable community based health care system for the future. This is one of the major challenges of our time and one that many western economies across the world are confronting by attempting to put reforms such as this into practice.

“In the course of our work we have been able to talk to people from different parts of the health and social care system and we have been struck by the consistency of the messages we have received. There is a strong appetite for reform and there now seems to be a clear window of opportunity to harness this energy and drive transformation forward.”

LEXXER Solutions as a knowledge brokerage is best placed to turn principles into policy and policy into practice. We will bring together key stakeholders, represent their ideas and interests and work together to ensure that health and social care here is fighting fit.

In the last few years there have been several quantitative and qualitative studies which have highlighted that if organisations want to sustain growth through a competitive edge, then they need to embrace digital strategies and embed digitisation throughout their operations. At LEXXER Solutions we have pioneered new digital methods and approaches in order to give ourselves and our clients the advantage in an ever changing and competitive market. 

Digital technology has altered, and will continue to alter, the landscapes of business, education, entertainment, and government. According to research firm IDC, this trend is set to accelerate in the coming years. In fact, IDC mentions“Digital technologies and the new business models and strategies that they fuel will continue to significantly impact most organisations at a rising level of intensity”.

Despite the numerous benefits of going digital that are now up for the grabs, IDC found – in a new maturity study across 400+ European organisations – that while most enterprises use digital technologies, few actually reap the full potential. Less than 20 percent of the businesses reviewed can call themselves a ‘digital disruptor’ (companies that are aggressive in the use of new digital technologies and business models to remake and create new markets) or a ‘digital transformer’ (organisations that deliver digitally enabled products, and experiences). Most European organisations are either what IDC describes as ‘digital explorers’ or ‘digital players’ – players that acknowledge the need or are at the early stage of transforming the business digitally. However, they face the issue that transformation initiatives focus on optimising the existing business processes and not on truly developing digital products or evolving the company’s business model.

LEXXER Solutions will take your business to the very edge of new technology, giving your the edge in business – KNOWLEDGE.

Digital maturity of European organisations

“Being a digital transformer means adopting technological opportunities whole-heartedly. It involves seeing technology as something profound, something synergising and something more than just a number of disparate business tools that are in place to improve basic business functions,” says Fergus Gilmore, Managing Director of Deltek in the UK.

In the consulting industry, says Gilmore, digital transformers are firms that see technology as a catalyst for bringing their people, processes, customers and ambitions together. “They adopt it as a mechanism for compounding growth and adding value for customers through new and innovative products, services and ideas.”

As a result, these digital transformers – or the ‘Digirati’ as they are also known – are pulling away from their competitors. “They have more agile business processes, well-connected departments, improved collaboration, stronger analytical capabilities and better insight for more accurate reporting that simply puts them out in front.”

Research found that companies that understand the value of digital transformation (Digirati) were on average 26 percent more profitable than their competitors, they were also 50 percent more likely to have lower employee turnover*. 

In line with these new findings LEXXER Solutions has adopted the following principles

1. Put clients at the centre of our strategy – Drive home how digital transformation can benefit the customer’s businesses as well as our own, then introduce new products and services as a result. The added value  provided will show we are dedicated to innovation and progress.

2. Invest in digital skills – 77 percent of firms say a lack of internal knowledge prevents them from becoming digital transformers. We will help you invest in a digitally literate team and task them to drive the change you desire.

Seven principles to turn consulting firms into digital transformers

3. Digitalise your entire firm – It’s true that digital transformation is usually led from the top, but the responsibility cannot just lie with the CEO. To roll out a successful digital plan, the entire company should be on board so staff at all levels are willing to learn, develop and improve.

4. Empower employees – speed up and improve decision making by providing relevant, real-time data to employees when they need it, through whichever device they choose. LEXXER believes that knowledge is power.

5. Implement the right business platform – Make the most of our experts’ time and billable resources while minimising administrative tasks such as time recording, reporting and invoicing with a robust enterprise resource planning system, for instance.

6. Use your data – Measure key performance indicators to set objectives and establish if we are heading in the right direction. Analytics will pinpoint lucrative sales opportunities and historical information will help you spot trends and plan for the future.

7. Build ‘digital’ into your strategy – Technology is no longer a means to an end. It should be ingrained and intertwined into a firm’s strategy and vision right at the point of design. That way it will shape and drive your firm’s culture, relationships and services.

The time for change is now, with an ever more competitive and uncertain market, only those businesses which can stay ahead will survive. So Speak to one of the LEXXER team today and join the SOLUTION REVOLUTION

* World Economic Forum Report, Digital Transformation of Industries.

BREXIT for Beginners 

BREXIT for Beginners 

LEXXER has been working with those in the know since the referendum outcome to analyse threats and opportunities for our clients. With the intervention of the new minister charged with navigating the UK’s exit from the EU on Tuesday the pivotal position of our little corner of the U.K. Is clear.

David Davis is expected to have a telephone conversation with both Arlene Foster and Martin McGuinness in the afternoon. 

Prime Minister Theresa May met the Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon last week. 

Mrs Foster said she was looking forward to talking to Mr Davis.

“I’ll be speaking to him about Northern Ireland’s direct involvement in these negotiations [about leaving the EU] and I look forward to having a conversation with the prime minister face to face as well,” she said.

“We are in a new era, it is time to be innovative, it is time to be open and flexible which is what the prime minister was talking about when she was with the first minister of Scotland.

“So let’s think about doing things in a different way. We don’t have to do things in the way we did in the past and that’s what the Brexit vote is about – something, new, something different, let’s think about all of that.”

Managing expectations 

Clearly in Northern Ireland many businesses and groups are alarmed about the prospect of leaving the EU.
The business community, the community and voluntary sector, and universities have all voiced concerns about funding and access to markets which need to be addressed.

The uncertainty, and huge challenges will continue however we at LEXXER have canvassed opinion and spoken to those in the know in order to get a clear picture of the way forward. 

While the UK as a whole voted to leave the European Union by 52% to 48%, 56% of people in Northern Ireland voted to remain. This clearly underscores the issues we all now face.

While Theresa May has said: “I have already said that I won’t be triggering Article 50 until I think that we have a UK approach and objectives for negotiations – I think it is important that we establish that before we trigger Article 50.” That means that the rest of this year will bring uncertainty and more questions than answers. 

Our team of European experts will be on hand to answer those questions and help businesses and groups prepare for Brexit. As we look beyond Europe for the first time since the 1960s we will give you the edge in a new global market place – knowledge!