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Ed: isn’t he our man?

Many people in the voluntary sector will feel a small glow of satisfaction at the election of Ed Miliband as Labour leader, no matter what they think of his politics, the mode of his election or the fraternal ‘psychodrama’.

His first job in government was at the then Office of the Third Sector, a new mini-department created in the Cabinet Office by Tony Blair in 2006. He made a success of it and it boosted his upward trajectory. So there is a small sense of ‘we made him’ – of ‘he’s our man.’ In a fit of boyish enthusiasm, he once described Third Sector as his bible.

Of course, he now has a much wider constituency and the huge challenge of trying to take the party beyond both Old and New Labour. Bigger policy questions will be on his mind, not least the economy and the deficit.

But an important part of opposing the government will be developing a cogent response to David Cameron’s big society agenda, which is closely bound to the role of the voluntary sector. We can count on the new leader to realise that and keep the needs of the sector in mind.

So perhaps the most important next step is for him to appoint a strong shadow civil society minister to start challenging Nick Hurd, who has had a pretty clear run so far. It’s time for proper opposition politics to begin again, not least in the sector’s affairs.

  • jon bowles

    Hi, very interesting comment. It’s a pity outcomes of meaning cant counter the ask. Pushing the public is old hat. http://Www.catalystcard.come is the future. Why give your own money when you are empowered to get others to do it so you get emotional feel good and it’s free.
    Regards
    Jon

    • Leon Ward

      Useful comment Jon. Giving via card transactions is a great way to give money but probably won’t return the amount that organisations need to continue their core commitments let alone to grow and expand. The response needs to be versatile. Have a look at my other blogs for a few ideas.

      Thank you for reading and engaging!
      Leon

  • Peter Colllins

    Personally I don’t mind getting stuff through the post and 99 per cent of the chuggers I meet either take my eyes-averted seriousness as evidence that I don’t want to be badgered in the street, and those that do ask I deal with politely. I really really draw the line at people bothering me at home whether it’s, like the other night, the CRUK fundraiser who knocked on the door while I was both cooking and trying to get the kids into the bath, or the cold phone caller who interrupts what I consider to be hard-earned time to myself/my family. I think it’s a rotten practice, regardless of whether it ‘works’ or not.

    • Leon Ward

      Thank you for that Peter. I too would prefer not to receive the calls; however it makes for interesting comparison to the activities of charities that I’m involved in. There are also issues about the telephone preference service; many contacts have registered with that and are concerned about ‘cold callers’ when in fact, what I was taught is that most of the calls were not ‘cold’ and details were captured when donors previously gave to the charity. So, the lesson is ALWAYS click the ‘opt-out’ button and omit your phone number!
      Regards,

      Leon

      • Peter Colllins

        I have, but I still get them.

  • Tyrone Edwards

    Just reading this brought back so many memories of my time clinging to any sort of employment and, having left an infamous street fundraising company Gift, finding myself at what I imagine may have been the SAME telephone fundraising agency.

    Long hours, constant criticism, dark rooms and a feeling similar to being a ch

    • Steve

      Hi Leon and sorry to hear about your bad experience as charity telesales you should have come to work at my agency in Islington and you would have had a ball . I`ve had years of experience training people in that field and believe me putting people under pressure does not work ( neither for the caller nor the recipient) . I started on the phones myself and have sold advertising among other products , when I started my own agency I wanted everyone to have fun.

      • Leon Ward

        Thanks for this Steve! As I say above, I was fairly successful at what I did during my trial period. Whilst you can train people not to actively ‘apply pressure’ as much as you want; actually, a 3 ask script actually does that for you! Do get in touch if you want to chat about this further LeonWard3@gmail.com

  • James Renton

    Richard, you are right that the inevitable consequence of the current programme approach is that less money will go directly to the VCS. I do doubt that much will go to public sector directly i.e. to spend on its own operated services (while there has been carnage inflicted on the VCS, there has been equal carnage within the public sector and most of the remaining directly delivered services will be outsourced anyway). No I think there will be a greater alignment with other local public spending/policies (why else appoint a LA CEO to the BIG Board plus a number of private equity charlatans for good measure?). This move may be logical way to go but I think it is important as you are doing to debate its merits rather than accept it as a fait accompli.

  • Dan Paskins

    Hi Richard,

    Thanks for raising this. This is all very relevant to various conversations on our future strategic framework (www.yourvoiceourvision.org.uk ), particularly around how we can help to build a strong sector, tackle disadvantage and work together effectively with others.

    On this specific point, what is happening is that the Big Lottery Fund gives money to the voluntary sector, and then people from the voluntary sector decide whether to use some of that money to commission other organisations who they think will help young people into work.

    In answer to James’ point, the power about how to allocate this funding is in the hands of the voluntary sector, which is an important principle for us.

    So the question is whether voluntary sector partnerships should be able to decide on which providers to work with, using the expertise and local knowledge of people such as Richard (which is our current approach with Talent Match and elsewhere), or whether there should be restrictions to make sure that these partnerships only spend their money with other voluntary sector organisations.

  • John Hannen

    “the power about how to allocate this funding is in the hands of the voluntary sector, which is an important principle for us.”

    Actually no, that’s not really good enough.

    BLF funding, when pushed through commissioning processes, becomes little different to public spending, especially when it needs to be compliant with competition law. This is not about partnerships having “choice” – a partnership will not have a choice about who delivers, only on the nature of the specification and even that is limited if it’s considered to be anti-competitive. “Choices” can be contested by those not chosen and regulated procurement becomes defensive.

    Markets are not neutral, they shape the products sold within them. Market based funding tools will favour some providers at the expense of others and will only sustain a limited range of business models. I’m actually a fan of markets in many areas but public sector commissioning approaches limit innovation and narrow the range of activities.

    Many of the people who play the lottery, who are generally not the wealthiest people in the world, have the view that the money they contribute is going to “good” causes. They will see the institutions that support beneficiaries as the expression of those good causes. That’s not a neutral point of view on who should be funded and I worry for the BLFs credibility if it tries to merely become a form of social investment bank, blind to the means of delivery.

  • Dan Paskins

    Thanks, John. This is a good discussion and something which we will look at for the future.

    Our approach for Talent Match was informed by the analysis that in many cases, VCS organisations are best placed to reach disengaged young people rather than public or private sector organisations. We would therefore be surprised if the commissioning process to procure the best services for these young people did not bear this out.

    If VCS-led Talent Match commissioning boards end up choosing providers who they do not feel are best placed to help young people, even when they have the power to design the scope and make the selections, then that’s clearly not what any of us want. We’ll certainly look at this specific issue.

    But we’re also interested in some of the wider issues this highlights as well. If a VCS-led commissioning board decides to commission a provider who isn’t from the VCS because they think a public or private organisation would do the best job on a specific piece of work to help young people get jobs, is that something which we should prevent on the grounds that Lottery players would expect that good cause money should only go to the voluntary sector?

    In other words, should the Big Lottery Fund funding go to whichever organisations are best placed to deliver the outcomes which bring improvements to communities and the lives of people most in need (in recent years, this approach has meant that more than 90% of our money goes to the voluntary sector). Or do we need a sharper and more explicit focus that the key purpose of Lottery funding to get funding and support specifically to build a strong sector, and this is an intrinsic good which then enables people and communities to work together to galvanise social action and tackle disadvantage?

  • Kerr Kennedy

    I recently came across this post and the impact of BIG’s stance is certainly evident here in Bradford. Bradford is a beneficiary of both Talent Match and, more recently, Better Start funding. With Better Start, a significant share of the £49m allocated tover ten years will be pipilined to the local authority Public Health and to the NHS for specified delivery. The BIG funding is hugely important to parents and children in our deprived communities but I can’t help agreeing with Richard that the price the VCS are paying is high. Also, the VCS Lead body is fighting hard to to commission local VCS organisations for a range of generic and specific services but face barriers in that the agreements have to be binding contracts rather than grants, something that smaller groups are unfamiliar with and relatively unprepared to manage. Somehow I wonder that the ‘golden egg’ of BIG funding is slightly tarnished in terms of benefiting communities. Perhaps the ‘goose’ that is BIG could be a little more understanding?