Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

VIDEO: Morning Panel

February 1st, 2010 by Marcus Hickman

So its almost a week after the conference and some of you might be getting a bit hazy about particular questions asked, the name of the famous thinker referenced by the panel or what tie Adam Sampson wasn’t wearing.

The good news is we have a special treat for you in the form of live streaming videos of all panel discussions, John Bercow’s lunchtime address and Peter Tatchell’s keynote! All of them are available for your instant consumption in full technicolor video and 24 hours a day, forever. Enjoy :)

To start you off here’s the morning’s lively debate on whether political change after the election will be a threat or opportunity for the voluntary sector. Chaired by Christopher Hope from the Daily Telegraph other panelists were freelance journalist Ed Howker, Campaign to Protect Rural England’s Shaun Spiers and a particularly on form Adam Sampson, formerly CEO of Shelter and the Office for Legal Complaints.

VIDEO: John Bercow MP

February 1st, 2010 by Marcus Hickman

After the morning workshops delegates returned to the main hall for the lunchtime address from Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow MP.

His address focused on the expenses scandal and the need for politicians to regain the public’s, and ideally the voluntary sector’s, trust.

VIDEO: Afternoon Panel

February 1st, 2010 by Marcus Hickman

The post-lunch afternoon panel was set to be a heated debate split along political dividing lines. Perhaps (or perhaps not) surprisingly the panelists seemed to agree on a great many things.

Chaired by NCVO director of public policy, Liz Atkins, the panel consisted of Oliver Letwin MP, Danny Alexander MP and Chuka Umunna PPC.

VIDEO: Keynote speaker Peter Tatchell

February 1st, 2010 by Marcus Hickman

The Day was wrapped up with an inspirational keynote from Peter Tatchell. Founding member of OutRage!, regular contributing blogger on the Guardian and member of the Green Party , Peter Tatchell is one of the country’s most well known campaigners. He’s actively campaigned for more than 42 years and has proven fearless in the face of the world’s most notorious human rights abusers (as his two attempted citizen’s arrest of Robert Mugabe attest too). Peter was also named campaigner of the Year 2009 by The Observer.

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Engaging the public

January 22nd, 2010 by Andy May

Many of the blog posts here make reference to the difficulty of the current climate for campaigning. A cynical public saturated with media stories about the expenses scandal and dampened in mood by the longest economic downturn in decades do not make for an easy audience.

In addition to engaging the public, every organisation is looking for ways to influence the politicians and get their voice heard over the competing chorus of other pressure groups in the short window before the election.

Power2010 has taken a unique approach in order to make democratic and political reform part of the context of the next election. Being a new campaign whose origins lay in the 2006 Power Enquiry we seek to harness the apathy and lack of trust in politics and turn it into a force for change. The inception of the campaign in its current form occurred directly after the expenses scandal and it’s been clear from the response we’ve got so far that people have not forgotten this. They are innately aware that there are wider systemic problems with UK politics underlying the scandals and cynicism.

So where did we start? To remain true to our values we couldn’t just go and ask the public to sign up to a set of pre-conceived ideas on how to improve our democracy. The only way to engage a public fed up with not being listened to by the establishment was to engage them in a deeper and different way than the other campaigns out there. We wanted the public not only to be supporters, but to be agenda setters. That’s why every stage of the process has been as open and democratic as possible.

First of all we had a 2 month consultation phase where we received over 4000 submissions from members of the public on democratic and political reform. These included far reaching reforms on voting systems and a written constitution right down to simpler more symbolic ones such as a ‘None of the Above’ option on the ballot paper.

The 57 core ideas that came out of this then went to a Deliberative Poll of 130 citizens scientifically selected to form a microcosm of the UK population. After a weekend of debate and discussion 29 reform ideas received majority support and these have now been put to the public vote. We are currently working with individuals and organisations across the country to encourage as many people as possible to vote and have their say. The 5 ideas which receive most support will form the Power2010 pledge, the centrepiece of our campaign aimed at candidates and political parties during the election.

The vote has already seen massive participation with 20,000 votes cast in the first week of what will be a 5 week drive to mobilise popular support. We are now rolling out our regional campaign, using organisers across the UK to get as many people as possible to participate. If we achieve critical mass with the numbers voting the Pledge will be a powerful tool to wield at candidates still acutely conscious of public anger over the expenses scandal and the hunger for reform. At the NCVO workshop on local campaigning, I’ll talk more about how we plan to move on from this broader participation to get politicians to sign up to the 5 key reforms that come out of the process.

In the meantime, being a campaigner I never miss an opportunity… You can participate right now in our campaign by voting on our shortlist at

Andy May is Local Campaigns Coordinator for Power2010. He will be speaking in the ‘Going Local’ workshop at the Campaigns Conference.

In defence of campaigning

January 21st, 2010 by Chloe Stables

Over recent months, there has been a steady drip feed of articles and posts criticising the voluntary sector for its cosy relationship with government.

Many of these posts point to the large swathes of government money received by the voluntary sector and its perceived lack of independence. Tim Montgomerie of ConservativeHome argued that the “voluntary sector has become so dependent upon government funding that it is hardly voluntary at all”. A recent article by Ed Howker at the Spectator also laments that many charities have now become “quasi-governmental organisations.”

The vast majority of these articles also express a preference for smaller, locally based charities undertaking frontline work, and are highly critical of larger, professionalised campaigning organisations.

These articles undoubtedly raise some important points – as campaigners we must not let our relationship with Government cross over from critical friend to paid lackey; we must be ever mindful of talking on behalf of people rather than enabling them to talk for themselves; and above all else, maintain a clear focus on the needs of our beneficiaries. Only through due care and attention to these issues will we be able to stay the right side of the dividing line between political organisation and seeking to influence in order to fulfil our charitable objectives.

There remains, however, much to refute within these articles. Campaigning should not be a dirty word. As a sector, we need to mount a robust defence of campaigning and the role that it plays in our democracy. It is legitimate and valuable activity.  Campaigning by charities across a broad range of issues has often energised and provoked public debate in a way that has left traditional politics in their slipstream. Many would point to the successes that campaigners have made over many years – slavery, women’s rights, the increased profile of climate change, the smoking ban. I could go on and on. At a time when trust in politics has hit an all time low, and the Westminster bubble becomes more self-absorbed by the day, campaigners have an essential role to play ensuring that a diversity of voices are listened to, and not just those who find it easiest to make their voices heard.

I would also argue that making a case for small and local versus large professionalised charities is a false dichotomy.  It goes without saying that we need to preserve strong grassroots, but it is essential that larger charities can continue to giving a voice to the excluded and deliver key services. Being professional does not automatically result in a disconnect from our beneficiaries, instead it helps create a powerful combined voice.

In the words of Reverend J. Graham Smith “for too long society has expected, and restricted, charities to providing the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff. With expertise in their field, they should be permitted to erect the fence at the top. “

This issue will undoubtedly arise at the Campaigns Conference next week, where both Ed Howker and Tim Montgomerie will be present. It’s important that we do not allow this outdated philanthropic view of the voluntary sector to go unchallenged.

Chloe is Parliamentary Officer at NCVO. Ed Howker and Tim Montgomerie will be speaking at the Campaigns Conference next week.

Campaigning and the Compact

January 15th, 2010 by Tom Elkins

Last December, a new and refreshed Compact was launched by the Sector and Government, promising more relevant, meaningful and effective partnership working between them.

Since its initial publication in 1998, the Compact has been used by organisations of all sizes across England. The principles it contains have encouraged better and more comprehensive consultations, more manageable funding arrangements, and enabled groups to have their voice heard.

The principles of the new Compact focus on three key areas; involvement in policy development, allocating resources and advancing equality.

Embedded throughout – and arguably key to the spirit of the Compact – is the importance of an independent sector. Little has changed in how this is described in the new Compact:

“The independence of the third sector is recognised and supported. This includes its right within the law to campaign, to comment on and to challenge government policy (whatever funding or other relationship may exist with government) and to determine and manage its own affairs.”

The Compact, 2009

Throughout the lengthy consultation which led to the development of the new Compact, this essential aspect of good Compact working was often emphasised by respondents; that an organisation – no matter what its size, the issues they represent, or how it is funded – has the right to challenge, to speak out, to campaign.

Some organisations may feel wary about challenging the policy decisions made by local or national bodies who also fund their work. The Compact is a vital tool to enable them to do so without fear. All Government departments are covered by the principles of the Compact, as are local public sector bodies.

The Compact facilitates involvement throughout many aspects of policy making; it embeds principles of good consultation at the earliest stage, encourages transparency and clarity about decisions which can affect organisations, and provides a key mechanism to enable campaigning. Compact Voice, who represent the Sector on Compact issues, use these principles in all of our working; put simply, the Compact makes it easier for us to represent you. Perhaps these principles can help make your voice more powerful too.

Tom Elkins is Compact Voice Manager

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Going local

January 8th, 2010 by Eleanor Bullimore

With the General Election looming, localism is high on the agenda for all the political parties. The consensus appears to be that more decisions should be made locally with local people playing an active role in that process. Whilst this has sparked an interesting debate as to whether there is a real commitment here to hand over power to local bodies and people, we cannot deny that the last few years have seen increases in legislation, consultations and funding for projects that seek to give power not only to local government, but also to individuals.

The voluntary and community sector obviously has a key role to play in helping deliver this new agenda. But there are also implications for how charities and voluntary organisations work – particularly when it comes to campaigning. For one thing, campaigners will need to start working through the complex maze that is local government and new relationships will need to be built between local decision makers and organisations.

But will national charities be expected to engage at a local level? Could this mean that charities will have to invest more in local campaigning?

The trend towards localism is shifting the balance of power, but it is also shaping the expectations of local people. Individuals are being given an increasingly meaningful role in shaping their neighbourhoods and communities, as well as the services that they use. Community involvement is key to the Government’s plans to improve public services. Increased involvement not only improves services, but it also improves people’s perceptions of those services, helping to create better, sustainable relationships for the future.

National charities have a lot to learn from this approach. As a sector, we cannot afford to talk on behalf of the people we support. Instead, we should be creating platforms to give people the chance to talk for themselves. If we want our campaigns to retain any degree of legitimacy, this must be done on a meaningful level, and not just by wheeling out the usual suspects at conferences or for television interviews.

And where better to start this trend than at a local level? Many campaigning organisations have already recognised the power of local people and have started to harness it in the form of local campaigns networks. At Leonard Cheshire Disability (LCD), for instance, disabled people are supported to create campaign groups to campaign on issues that effect them in their local communities every day. This is empowering people to make change happen for themselves and enabling real change to happen in areas that previously could not be reached.

We should not underestimate the importance of local issues, nor the impact that local people can have. With a shift of power from national to local government, national organisations may well be pushed to engage more with local people. But this should be seen as an opportunity, rather than a cost. By investing in local campaigning and local people, national organisations will be investing in a sustainable future for themselves.

Eleanor is a Local Campaigns Co-ordinator for Leonard Cheshire Disability, she is speaking in the ‘Going Local’ workshop at the Campaigns Conference