We use cookies to help us provide you with the best experience, improve and tailor our services, and carry out our marketing activities. For more information, including how to manage your cookie settings, see our privacy notice.


Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

We’ve made our member-only resources free to everyone because of the current situation. We think it’s important people have the guidance they need to run their organisations during this time.

If you want to find out more about how you can volunteer to help deal with coronavirus, see our volunteering and coronavirus page.

If you are looking for advice on coronavirus and your charity, please see our dedicated coronavirus page.

Community-made content which you can improve Case study from our community

Engaging with your local enterprise partnership

This page is free to all
Find out how your local LEP works, make the case for involving the sector, show impact and encourage Compact working.

In this section we set out a five step practical plan for how voluntary organisations can engage with their local LEP. We recommend you read the Roles and responsibilities page and find your local LEP, before using the plan.

1.  Do your homework

It is important to begin by working out how LEPs work in general and how your local LEP works. Collecting this information will give you a better idea of how your local LEP operates in practice, where the influence lies and the types of organisations they engage with already. Below are some ideas of what to focus on when researching local LEPs.

Geographical area

  • The area that the LEP covers, including local authorities and major cities
  • The size, economic make-up and rural-urban split.


  • The background of the people on the board, particularly the chair.
  • If there’s a voluntary sector representative on the board.
  • If there are any sub-committees or advisory groups that are relevant to your work.
  • The number of staff and the person responsible for voluntary sector engagement.


  • The priorities set out in the LEP’s European structural investment fund (ESIF) strategy.
  • The identity of the voluntary sector representative on the ESIF committee.
  • How much ESIF money the LEP has been notionally allocated and how much of this is ESF money.
  • Who the opt-in organisations in your area are, and in particular, whether the National Lottery Community Fund is acting as an opt-in organisation.
  • If community-led local development is available in your area.
  • If community grants are available in your area.
  • The priorities set out in the LEP’s strategic economic plan.
  • The local growth deal agreed between the LEP and the government.
  • Other sources of funding the LEP has managed to secure or is bidding for.


  • If there are any enterprise zones in the LEP area.
  • If your local LEP works with neighbouring LEPs on any issues, and what these are.

2.   Make the case for voluntary sector engagement

LEPs tend to focus on economic issues (such as business startups), rather than wider factors such as labour market skills, social capital and community empowerment. Also, it’s not always clear what relationships LEPs should have with civil society.

You should highlight:

  • Economic contribution: the voluntary sector’s GVA was estimated at £12.1bn for 2012/13 and employed over 800,000 people in 2015.
  • Expertise: by working with geographic or related communities voluntary organisations have existing working relationships with partners that LEPS may be interested in. They also have proven technical expertise in community-led local development, community grants and social inclusion.
  • Innovation: voluntary sector organisations can often identify problems and start experimenting with solutions more rapidly than organisations in the statutory or private sector.
  • Preventative services: the sector excels in early intervention and holistic services that help people before they get too far away from the labour market.
  • Contact with under-represented groups: voluntary sector organisations reach people who are less likely to be heard by government, ensuring that policies take into account and address the needs of all sections of society. They also can help access the National Lottery Community Fund's social inclusion match funding.

Use local data

It can be a useful exercise to draw up a local case for engagement based on data and evidence specific to your area. Your local infrastructure body, such as a CVS, might be able to help. This could help show what the sector is not already doing, but could do if funded appropriately.

Make the case for mixed funding, including grants

A related conversation is why the sector works best when it is provided with a mix of funding, which means grants as well as contracts. For business-led organisations such as LEPs, the value of grants may not always be obvious.


  • Are solution focused: voluntary organisations can to pursue the solutions which work best rather than being derailed by meeting targets
  • Build capacity: grants can support the development and capacity of  local infrastructure organisations.
  • Promote small charities: smaller charities make things happen for local people but often do not have the resources or expertise to negotiate complicated contracts – small grants allow them to thrive
  • Are proportionate: contracts can be a useful tool because they provide incentives and measure impact, the costs of bidding, negotiating and administering can be disproportionate to the value of what is actually provided – meaning less waste for the LEP.

3.   Build relationships

Relationships can create sustainable and permanent forms of engagement.

All ESIF committees will have voluntary sector representatives, but there will also probably be other relationships that you should be aware of. Mapping these can help you decide where the open doors are what new routes of engagement you might want to consider. These include:

  • voluntary sector reps on boards
  • voluntary organisations on boards (not rep)
  • voluntary reps on LEP sub-group
  • voluntary reps on advisory group
  • support organisations’ engagement with LEPs
  • helping LEP choose grant winners
  • research by voluntary organisations
  • voluntary sector support on equalities.

For the LEP to understand the diversity and strengths of the sector, the sector needs to present a unified and credible front. Voluntary sector representatives must be appropriate for the job – in particular, serious thought should go into how they are selected and the methods they use to communicate with the rest of the sector. An election (or at least, transparent selection) and clear lines of communication minimises the potential for conflict later on.

4. Show impact and build capacity

You need to show that you are solving a problem that the LEP cares about.

  • What is your “hard” business case and what are the wider social and economic factors that impact your work?
  • How does the issue you care about fit in with the priorities and strategy outlined in the ESIF plan and strategic economic plan?
  • Who are the groups of people that you could help connect the LEP with?
  • Have you got evidence or could you collect evidence which feed into the LEP’s decision making process?
  • Could you find or contribute to a special interest group which addresses a particular relationship?
  • Do you have robust evaluation processes which demonstrate that you are delivering real social value and value for money?

5. Encourage compact working

The compact is the agreement between government and the voluntary sector in England. It sets out key principles for improving their working relationship in order to achieve common goals that benefit  communities and citizens in England. It was produced in 2010, and all central government departments have signed up to it.

The compact has five principles:

  1. strong, diverse and independent civil society
  2. effective and transparent design and development of policies, programmes and public services
  3. responsive and high quality programmes and services
  4. clear arrangements for managing change
  5. a fair and equal society.

Each principle is divided into steps or ‘undertakings’ that must made by government and the voluntary sector.

Example of how the steps of compact working can be applied



Application to LEP


Ensure greater transparency by making data and information more accessible

Encourage the LEP to hold more of their work in public, to tweet and to live stream meetings


Consider the social impact that may result from policy and programme development

Encourage the LEP to look beyond its core economic functions and consider the interplay of economic and social factors


Consider a wide range of ways to fund or resource civil society organisations

Work with the LEP to design a grant funding programme for small voluntary organisations and social enterprises


Take practical action to eliminate unlawful discrimination, advance equality and to ensure a voice for under-represented and disadvantaged groups

Work with the LEP to assess the equalities implications of its policies and programmes

Embedding partnership working

In some areas local bodies will have entered into a partnership agreement which won’t be called a compact. This is completely valid - the most important thing is that partners can find language and a system which works for them.

Nurture the principles of good partnership working:

  • Encourage explicit reference to the compact principles in your agreements and LEP documents.
  • Establish routes of communication between the LEP and the local compact or voluntary sector partnership group.
  • Encourage the LEP to sign up to the local compact if they have not already.

Good partnership working between voluntary organisations can be as crucial as good partnership working between the voluntary and public sectors. While competition between voluntary sector organisations can make this more difficult, the sector can have more influence when it presents a coordinated front.


Page last edited Oct 09, 2019

Help us to improve this page – give us feedback.