The five minute policy manager – September 2014

It’s back to school time! The summer lull in policy wonkery is already receding into the distance as a number of interesting opportunities emerge on the voluntary sector policy front.

Planning your autumn timetable? Consider opting for some of these subjects…

European studies – public services reform

If public services are your bag, you won’t have missed the fantastic report launched by NESTA this week, making the case for more open public services that place people at the heart of what they do.

As well as pointing out that our sector contributes £34bn a year to the English economy, it includes ten great case studies of how to achieve people-centred services in practice. Of course, that is the tricky bit, and here at NCVO we are working on a response to the latest suite of EU reforms that will shape the future practice of commissioning and procurement.

If you’d like us to feature a case study of your organisation’s experiences in public services, please get in touch with Paul Winyard.

What grades are you getting? Impact evaluation

Impact evaluation is getting a lot of attention at the moment. So far, most of the discussion has focussed on the technicalities rather than the role of the voluntary sector. That is why I like this recent report from the NHS Federation (PDF, 640KB) which makes the case for charities to get involved in evaluating the impact of public services, rather than just delivering them.

A different report from NPC, Closing in on Change, takes a more critical stance, arguing that us charities should work harder at evaluating the impact of our campaigning work. Do you agree?

Dinner money – squeezing more out of society lotteries

Big Society Lotteries currently deliver much more than dinner money for our sector, with the Big Lottery Fund contributing £758m and society lotteries £130m in 2011/12. Yet, some people think more cash could be raised if the requirement to give at least 20% of their proceeds to charity was lowered. The Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee is conducting a short inquiry into this and related questions surrounding society lotteries, as Karina explains in her post. Please let her know what your organisation thinks before the end of September.

School prize giving – is your partnership worth a Compact medal?

The annual awards ceremony for effective partnership working across the sectors is fast approaching! Compact Voice is inviting nominations by 1 October for partnerships with the voluntary sector that have delivered on a whole range of fronts, from equality to impact and innovation.

Find out more about the Compact Awards 2014, including how to make a nomination

Volunteers – do you like that new girl, SARAH?

If your organisation relies heavily on volunteers, you will know that recruiting and retaining is way more complex than it used to be for milk monitors at nursery.

Is fear of being sued one of the barriers to volunteering, or is the government just saying so to get good PR? The government says that the SARAH (Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism) Bill currently before Parliament will reassure volunteers and organisations that the courts will consider the context of their actions if they are sued for negligence or breach of statutory duty.

Justin Davis-Smith from NCVO gave evidence on the Bill in parliament this week. Read Justin’s post on the SARAH Bill.

Stop that squabbling at the back, trustees and chief executives!

Championing good governance entails much more than preventing playground squabbles between chief execs and trustees. Come and join more than 500 chief executives and trustees learning about best practice in governance in the voluntary sector at our Trustee Conference on 10 November.

First school report for the new Minister

Talking of squabbles, Brooks Newmark, the new Minister for Civil Society, attended the NCVO summer reception this week with good grace after a bit of a bad week on Twitter. His first school report is looking like a mixed picture. Full marks for a thoughtful contribution to a parliamentary debate on the social economy, but much lower scores for ill-thought through comments on charity campaigning that he assures us were taken out of context.

Book club – small is beautiful

And finally for those swots amongst us who love to take home extra reading, I highly recommend this new book, David and Goliath, from Malcolm Gladwell.

If you work for a small organisation, you will find plenty of inspiration in its tales of small causes battling larger ones with great success. Not just for the economics graduates who liked Schumacher, but for all of us who know that small can be beautiful.

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Ruth Driscoll Ruth Driscoll is NCVO’s Head of Policy & Public Services. She has a decade’s experience of senior level working in policy and research for overseas development organisations.

2 Responses to The five minute policy manager – September 2014

  1. People were always “at the heart” of the voluntary sector, so there is nothing new there. What has changed, and what confuses many people, is what the “voluntary sector” really is.

    Is it the charities that control millions of pounds, or is it the charities that people can relate to in their local communities? I am a trustee of one of the latter. And having attended one of the NCVO conferences, I don’t recognise myself and my fellow board members as being in the area called “charities” when after the opening plenary session all those from charities who had “less than £1.5M in statuary funding” to put their hands up. 5 of us did, and after talking to them, I think there would only be two of us who would have put our hands up at the end of the year.
    What, I have asked, is this funding? I also note, that as this summer has go on, there seems to be even more obstacles put in front of those charities who “have less than £1.5M statuary funding” such as the post-code lottery, who now makes it a “floor” for a project to cost less than £100,000 being disqulified, and that is not to include any sort of building project especially renovation. Funny how many of these small charities are in buildings that require significant overhauls, isn’t it? Maybe it is because they cannot afford the buildings that require £1.5M income a year?
    Perhaps, in the “greater scheme of things”, these people centered charities are not really important, and that there is a need to see them clear of the funding field? Or perhaps it is because being so small, though very necessary to the local population, that they cannot be easily regulated and controlled?
    I would be interested in the comments this may raise. On the other hand, it may be that any comments are not given due to the unimportance of a charitiy of this size.
    John K. Euers

  2. Ruth Driscoll Ruth Driscoll says:

    Thanks a lot for your comments, John.

    I couldn’t agree with you more about the importance of small charities and just yesterday I was trying to persuade a group of Whitehall officials of the importance of ensuring reforms to commissioning create opportunities for small charities to shape the design and delivery of public services.

    Small charities are often founded in response to a particular need that is not being met at local level, and you are often the most expert at meeting the complex needs of vulnerable people. Here at NCVO, we offer free membership to organisations with income of less than £30,000 a year and only charge £45 for those with an income of under £50,000 a year. We want to make sure small charities get heard in our discussions with government about policies affecting the voluntary sector, and also receive the right support to maximise your impact on society. It’s a cause very close to my heart as like you, I am a trustee of a small charity that tackles big issues.