Thursday, 15 May 2008

The Compact; a real voice for the third sector ?

In 1998 the Government signed a " Compact" with the third sector. This was a framework for relationships between us and Government ; setting out standards on issues like funding and consultation . It was a remarkable step forward. NCVO , who spearheaded this move did a huge service to sector - government relations. It continues to underpin relations between us and is now being seen as a model in countries across the world. I have had talks with Governments in Australia , Canada and Israel , for example on how to introduce an effective Compact to underpin their relationships with civil society and how to learn from our experience.

But like all agreements that are 10 years old they become frayed at the edges and people get cynical when , for example , some local authorities not only don't implement it but have not even heard of it ! So in acevo we pressed for the creation of the post of Compact Commissioner. It was one of the key outcomes of acevo's Surer Funding report . I remember having a discussion with the head of the Active Community unit in the Home Office ( the forerunner of the current Office of the Third Sector ) and he was clear that they needed to put some welly behind the Compact , especially on funding issues , and so decided to create the Commissioner Post.

But now we need to go further and we need to give the Commissioner statutory powers. We have been lobbying hard for this move . I met Ed Miliband ( the Cabinet Office minister ) today and told him the results and urged him to give this serious consideration. i think we will see progress . The case is so clear . It is not if but when . And I have been disappointed that Compact Voice , which is the sector body that draws together organisations to promote the Compact has not been as far behind this as it should. However I think the new Chair , Simon from the brilliant charity Brook Advisory services will help pull us all together in support of statutory powers. We must all work together to ensure the powers are strong enough to give real bite. The newly appointed Compact Commissioner is Bert Massie , a doughty fighter for disabled rights. He is not going to stand any nonsense and we will soon see some action I suspect....

The day started off well when I met the CEO of the Shell Foundation ( after my work out at the gym ! ) who has some very interesting experience in investing in and developing third sector bodies in various parts of the world , including Africa. He was clear that it is never enough to just invest , without also providing support for business development . It is a lesson we have learnt in the Adventure Capital Fund ( which I chair ) and we do exactly that when we support our Community Enterprise projects with investment money , but also business development grants. i love the role with ACF. There are some fantastic community organisations around the country who , often despite the odds stacked against them by the bureaucracy do great things in their locality. one of the exciting developments has been the growth of what are termed " community anchors " which provide premises to support local groups , enterprises and charities . The Government have allocated a large fund to support the growth of these and we hope to play our part in this bold programme. Hazel Blears and her staff at DCLG ( the community and local government department ) are keen to see thriving communities and I have been in full discussion on how to support them in achieving this.

So that' s enough of the heavy stuff. Its time to get the train to Charlbury . i have a 3 month blood test tomorrow to check on how far my diet and gym work has got me in tackling the diabetes. Fingers crossed....and at least the geraniums are getting lots of rain!

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