Building effective and sustainable partnerships between the voluntary and statutory sector

Health Equalities

With The National Lottery Community Fund

We are supporting The National Lottery Community Fund’s Health Equality Grantees to develop effective and sustainable partnerships between the voluntary and community sector, the NHS, and local authorities, to improve health and wellbeing, reduce health inequalities and empower communities.

Storybook  Blogs  Learning resources

Through the Health Equalities programme, The National Lottery Community Fund has awarded £6.9 million to support local areas to develop effective and sustainable partnerships between the voluntary and community sector, the NHS and local authorities to improve health and wellbeing, reduce health inequalities and empower communities. Thanks to National Lottery players, these partnerships have the potential to bring about significant change, promoting the role of the voluntary sector and the value of cross-sector partnerships.

The National Lottery Community Fund and the Innovation Unit are working together to:

    • Support the organisations and grant holders who are looking to address health inequalities in their local areas
    • Connect and convene the Health Equality partnerships to generate and share learning
    • Communicate this learning to wider audiences

By sharing learning and insights relating to tackling health inequalities, we aim to support partnerships to build a legacy beyond their National Lottery funding and point towards longer-term systems change.

Learning and support partnership

Innovation Unit were the learning and support partner for the development phase (phase 1 during 2021-22) and have also been successful in the commissioning for phase 2, and will therefore continue to support 11 grantees until January 2026.

Our work involves a combination of bespoke 1-1 support for each grantee, and a series of learning activities bringing them together as a cohort to share experiences, gain support and develop their practice. We will also be holding external events open to the wider sector.

As learning partner, we’re exploring the system conditions, and methods and approaches, which support effective and sustainable partnerships focused on tackling health inequalities, and the extent to which these support the translation of ambitions to impact.

Together with the grantees, we’re learning about the role of factors including:

    • Relationships, infrastructure and governance
    • Level and area of focus – the difference between a targeted approach (e.g. through the lens of a health condition and/or community) and a more generalist approach (e.g. through the lens of partnership mechanisms)
    • Community engagement and co-production
    • Evidence generation and usage

As support partner, we’re working with the grantees to see where we can add most value to their work, offering our insight and practical experience to support with:

    • Coaching and reflective practice
    • Evaluation and learning.
    • Strategic and organisational development
    • Communications
    • Working with partners and communities

Insights and resources

This web page is a home for the learning and resources generated through the programme and will be updated regularly as our work continues. Here you can find event recordings, blogs, and frameworks and guidance (including the storybook covering all of the learning from the development phase). We hope this is a useful repository for anyone else looking to tackle health inequalities and develop effective cross-sector partnerships.

For more information please Email Lizzie Cain



Health in the community: VCFSE-led partnerships tackling health inequalities

Read the blog

How do you design a structure for partnering across the NHS, local authorities and community groups?

Read the blog

Trust Takes Time: lessons for VCSE organisations partnering with the NHS

Read the blog

Who Evaluates the Evaluation? Grassroots knowledge and experience of evaluation

Read the blog

Learning Resources

Top tips
Influencing and working with the NHS as a VCSE organisation

Printable activity
Features of successful partnerships

Shared challenges
Engaging the NHS as a voluntary / community sector organisation: shared challenges and how others are overcoming them

Powerpoint Download
Storytelling framework to help you share compelling stories about any topic

Theory of Change tool
A framework for helping you to think about complexity and adaptive change, and a tool for navigating it


Why and how ICSs should partner with the voluntary sector to tackle health inequalities

On the 22nd March 2022 cross-sector leaders and their learning partners came together to explore the role the voluntary sector can play in helping to tackle health inequalities in neighbourhoods, places and Integrated Care Systems (ICSs). The event was a collaboration between the Innovation Unit, The National Lottery Community Fund, The King’s Fund and the Institute for Voluntary Action Research.

Opportunities Ahead event

This event brought together NHS organisations working locally to tackle health inequalities with VCSE partners to explore how they can best work together in partnership. It spotlights The National Lottery Community Fund’s Health Equality funded partnerships and explores examples of promising practice and different ways in which partners have worked together.