Tuesday 20 January 2009

Obama ; and lessons for us

It was inspiring . Poetic. Beautifully phrased and powerful. A remarkable speech . We watched it as a staff group in ACEVO , with sparkling wine to toast the 44th President of the USA. I realised I had a meeting at 5pm but managed to rearrange . It was the one event of the year you simply just want to be part of ; even if only gathered around a TV screen.

And I hope people noticed that yesterday he and his wife spent the day volunteering . He is clear we must move on from selfish individualism to a society where we think of what we can give back . its an example to us too. its a message to our government that they must see the third sector as a crucial part of how we tackle the problems of recession and how we use the sector to fuel a recovery . It is no good pouring money into small business alone . We are a sector that can create value added jobs . We can ensure our communities stay together and are not torn asunder by the divisions of rising joblessness.

There are 2 big opportunities for Government in the next month . They will produce a third sector action plan for the recession and they will produce a White Paper on public service reform . Both can chart a way forward for our sector . But they will need to be bold . They need to chart the leadership role the sector can play ; central to economic recovery ; not marginal to it . Central to social well being ; not a by product . That will require strong political direction . I'm not sure the usual civil service circumlocutions will do . ACEVO has set the bar high for delivery of recession help . We want a £500m cash flow fund to support third sector bodies. We will judge the response overall , but we do need new money in the same way that the banks and small business have needed an injection of resources to weather the storm and enable us to help the victims of recession . And further than that lets look at how we can create jobs and full time volunteering opportunities and apprenticeships. We shall soon see ; but it is clear that Obama is looking to a major job creation programme . We need that here . And with the third sector at the forefront.


Anonymous said...

Nice post Stephen!

I agree with you that the third sector has the potential to make an enormous contribution to helping individuals and communities to survive the recession and perhaps even use it as a chance to transform themselves.

However I think the unique contribution that the third sector can make is to be the voice of communities to which government and policy makers should respond - NOT by being a conduit through which government policy can be done to local people.

Already this year I have worked with several third sector organisations who are delivering a range of projects funded by European, national, regional and local government. They are getting the boxes ticked, keeping the funding ticking over, but feeling increasingly doubtful about whether they are really achieving lasting positive impacts for the communities they serve.

By focussing on the requirements of policy makers and funders over the unique needs, expectations and aspirations of the communities they serve, some third sector organisations are in danger of damaging their credibility – in the eyes of service users, employees and volunteers.

The unique power of third sector organisations comes from the 'special relationship' that they have with the communities that they serve - not from their ability to deliver government policies and plans. Getting the balance right is still (for many) a major challenge.

Mike Chitty

Sir Stephen Bubb said...

you are right.This must be about the sector leadership role , rather than at the margins or , as you say a delivery vehicle only . Clearly soempart of our work will be about delivering to a democratically elected govedrnment or local council , but often ther eis no room for our ideas or innovation or indeed azs you say our role in articulating community voice . i have seen this role in a powerful light through the work the Adventure capital Fund does investing in community enterprise.