Live chat Wednesday 4 June, 13.00: How can we help you plan for the election?

Hannah Kowszun was NCVO’s Marketing & Membership Manager until July 2014. Her blog posts have been archived here.

Last week the NCVO Members’ Assembly met in Bristol to discuss our manifesto for the general election 2015.

It is called A bigger difference: Realising the potential of voluntary organisations and volunteers. As the name suggests, our focus is on how the next government can create an environment where voluntary organisations and the volunteer movement can make the biggest difference possible.

We involved our members at every turn in developing these proposals, making the case for what would best help organisations in the run up to the 2015 general election.

At the Members’ Assembly last week we asked what tools and resources can NCVO provide our members with to help them in their election planning?

I’ll be here on Wednesday 4 June at 13.00 to answer any questions you may have or to listen to any thoughts you want to share. If you can’t make it on the day please leave a comment and I’ll pick it up during the session.

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12 Responses to Live chat Wednesday 4 June, 13.00: How can we help you plan for the election?

  1. Some really good things in this. Could volunteers really swing the next General Election? Would be great to think so. With the huge number of committed volunteers, many of whom are very likely to be amongst those who take the trouble to vote, the Parties who take their needs, and the issues they are raising, seriously could indeed have a significant edge. I look forward with interest to seeing what the manifestoes have to say.

    • Hannah Kowszun says:

      Richard, thank you so much for your comment, I agree. After all, many parties rely hugely on volunteer support as part of the election process. Justin Davis Smith recently posited what the world might look like without volunteers: http://blogs.ncvo.org.uk/2014/05/21/no-volunteers-week/. Is this a compelling enough message for the policy makers?

    • Karl Wilding says:

      Good stuff Richard. Before the May local elections we did some briefing for volunteer centres and materials to give to their volunteers to try and get recognition of volunteering amongst candidates – our internal project name was ‘Volunteers are Voters!’

      Your point about volunteers being more likely to vote is definitely true: there’s lots of evidence that a ‘civic core’ gives a disproportionate amount of time, financial support to charities and is more likely to engage in democratic activities such as voting or writing to the local newspaper.

      It will be interesting to see what manifestos say. But I also wonder if we have to be careful what we wish for? Maybe the last thing we need is shiny new initiatives?

  2. Thank you for inviting me to attend the NCVO Members’ Assembly meeting in Bristol on 22 May 2014.

    What kind of resources could the NCVO provide to charitable organisations like ICRAA that are starting out new?

    I look forward to your response.

    Dr Sana Ul Haq Ahmadzai
    Chairman and Trustee
    International Committee for Rehabilitation Aid to Afghanistan (ICRAA)

  3. Leah Levane says:

    I think it is great that you are looking at influencing politicians a year before the election; however, there seems, to me to be too much acceptance of how things are done and so proposals seem more like ‘tinkering’. The point about being able to afford a living wage is vital – but it is something inherent in the nature of competitive tendering for what should be public services. Voluntary organisations have been caught up (willingly or not) in the dismantling of the welfare state, of publicly provided services.

    As voluntary organisations, we should refuse to undertake any work if funding – contracts or grants – will not enable us to offer decent terms and conditions – the living wage is really the bottom line as is not having zero or low hour contracts. We should not be competing with the private , which should not, in my firm view, be providing public services; it is not in line with their aims, which is (legitimately) to make profits. Let us actually help small businesses with rate relief and other measures and let us stop funding corporations – we can never compete with them and should not want to, nor to be subcontractors to them under some sweeping regional or national contracts. As voluntary organisations, our work needs to complement. We have a huge role to play in terms of engagement, and of reaching communities – such as the prisoners and other groups highlighted in the paper.

    We should be campaigning against commissioning. Our role is to decide what we think needs to be done and then to convince funders to enable us to do that because it fits their goals, not to bend ourselves out of shape to meet the spec outlined by someone else.

    As for specialist training on procurement – a waste of resources. IF services are to be commissioned, then the issues need to relate to the needs of people using or needing the service and not the procurement process. The NHS spent a fortune looking at good quality commissioning and we end up with Virgin Care – G4S running many ambulances……

    (Ticking boxes and jumping through hoops (and I speak as someone who while working in local government has tried to procure from the sector, but was told to go back and advertise this on the open market – this was for a £24,000 project that would not be repeated as our own area based government allocation was ending at the end of the year. In total, it took 7 months of arguing to get the procurement board to agree the exception…7 months in which the clients did not get a service, leaving only 5 months for the voluntary organisation to deliver. This was not untypical. Especially as the organisation had already successful run the £5,000 pilot, I should have been able to get approval to commit the funds to them with releases at appropriate intervals as targets were achieved.

    Procurement people cannot understand all the service needs and necessarily are reduced to box ticking and fear of exceptions lest this come back to haunt them as waste of public funds, etc.

    • Hannah Kowszun says:

      Leah, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on this. It’s really interesting hearing from the perspective of someone who has worked in local government.

      Have you heard of Compact Voice? It was set up to encourage better working partnerships between the voluntary sector and government both locally and nationally. In a time where commissioning is business as usual it works to make the best of the opportunities available by sharing best practice and advocating on behalf of the sector: http://www.compactvoice.org.uk/

      I’m not sure how much sweeping change may be possible in the next few years, but having a vision for a different future is always a good first step!

  4. Hannah Kowszun says:

    Hello everyone! If you have a question please post as a comment. Or if you want to comment on what someone has posted previously, make sure you reply to their comment.

    I look forward to chatting with you over the next hour.

  5. Hannah Kowszun says:

    By the way, if you’re interested in how the Queen’s speech today may impact the sector, Elizabeth Chamberlain has written an excellent blog on the subject: http://blogs.ncvo.org.uk/2014/06/04/the-queens-speech-key-points-for-the-sector-2/

  6. Ian Hillcoat says:

    Hi
    Do you have any guidance on the likely effect of the Lobbying Bill for smaller organisations?
    Thanks

  7. Hannah Kowszun says:

    Thank you for visiting and following our chat over lunchtime. If you do have any more questions or thoughts on this please post them here or get in touch (http://www.ncvo.org.uk/contact-us)

    Hope you have an enjoyable and productive afternoon!