What happened to the big splash on the Compact?

2010 was supposed to be the year of the big push for the Compact.  “Next year is an important time to make a big splash,” said Richard Corden, chief executive of the Commission for the Compact, when the cross-sector fair play agreement was refreshed in December.

At the time, the Compact was still reeling from the breach by third sector minister Angela Smith and criticism that the new version didn’t cater for the needs of community groups and black and minority ethnic groups.

Corden said the new document should learn from the mistakes of the old version and be promoted better. But four months on, where is the noise?

The Compact advocacy programme at the NCVO used to publish an annual report saying how many cases it had investigated with details of some of the issues. It wasn’t afraid to shame the government department that committed serial breaches – or to pat on the back the good ones.

Since its feisty manager Saskia Daggett departed it has adopted a low-key, softly-softly approach to its work and this week told Third Sector it would not be producing an annual report in 2010.

Compact Voice, which represents the voluntary sector on Compact issues, has some examples of good practice on its website; the commission has sponsored some interesting thematic work. But nothing much has happened to generate news or create a sense that the Compact matters.

The emphasis seems to be on handling disputes quietly while making bland public utterings about the value of a strong Compact. This is barely creating a ripple, let alone a splash and if the situation remains then it’s likely that by the next election Third Sector will still have to explain what the Compact is to every public sector press officer and little progress will have been made.