Monday 7 March 2011

Big Society needs Big Charity, and Melbourne!

There has been an absurd attempt by some to denigrate the role of big charities. I blogged about the nasty attack by Policy Exchange which managed to combine illogical argument with viscous denigration. Just recently , in the Commons debate on Big Society a rather silly Tory backbencher intervened to suggest that any charity that gets more than 80 % of its funding from the State should be de registered. It clearly had not occurred to said MP that this would immediately sabotage his Government's public service reform programme. It would undermine IDS's attempt to reform welfare to work as most of the charities wanting to grow and deliver more would fall foul of this silly notion. It would undermine efforts to expand our rehabilitation work or work on Free Schools. It would mean that all the current GP consortia that are becoming charities and social enterprises would be unable to do so.

In fact Big Society needs Big Charity. If we are to grow service delivery you need both the power of economies of scale, infrastructure and capacity, together with the strength of the local and community organisations. They are not at odds with each other.

Two examples of why we need Big Charity.

First , big charities invest a £1billion a year in research.

Data available from the Higher Education Statistics Agency show funding from UK based charities for research to higher education institutions in the UK at £917m in the years 09-10. This has grown from £726m in 2005-6.

Second, Big charities are major contributors to innovation. It is a myth that all innovation stems from small scale organisations or individuals( whether in the third sector or private sector ) . Much comes from systematic and rigorous research and development. This is what Big Charities are able to contribute.

Hence the pioneering work of RNID on the digital hearing aid. The work of RNIB in developing the micro-chip that translates written programme info on the TV screen into speech.

There are countless other examples of innovation. And of course innovation , if it is to make a difference more widely, needs to scale up. Which is what Big Charities can contribute.

The PASC is to have hearings on " big society". I'm looking forward to taking on the scale deniers and charity haters . Time for their illogicality to be exposed for the nonsense it is.

Now back to the travels. I'm off the horse and down in Melbourne. Staying with old flatmates from my Clapham Rd days. Timmy is a senior social work manager for the Victoria Health Dept, working in mental health. Daniele works in a charity helping vulnerable Somali and Ethiopian women refugees. They have 3 splendid children and live in Footscray, a working class inner city suburb with the most fantastic victorian wooden houses. It is a "Notting Hill " in the making.

And it is hot. And as a punishment for past crimes I haven't been able to desport myself on the beach 'cos I have caught a cold. Still, the Australian chardonnay and Shiraz makes a fine medicine!


Allison Ogden-Newton said...

Contradictions abound. The critisism of larger charities being 'too business like' whilst talking about civil society doing more within public service, is similar to the accusation that the public sector can be anti-enterprise whilst we are working with them to set up as social enterprises. As a piece I have written today for one of the Broadsheets says, and your piece confirms, Government policy needs to be roadtested against the principles of Big Society to avoid contradiction.

Anonymous said...

2011 presents many challenges for nonprofits. Today, nonprofits face a reduction in grants; an economy that is stretching their nonprofit dollars to the max; an increase in demand for their services; all while trying to reach new donors in a very competitive industry. Nonprofits are trying very hard to "get the word out about what they do for others", while growing their organization for long-term success. Connect To Charity, objective is to help nonprofits overcome these challenges.