Stop, collaborate and listen

As part of a broader commitment to working more in the open, I wanted to share some of the conversations I‘m having and the things that I’m thinking about in the style of a ‘weeknotes’ blog. I’ll aim to do this on a fairly regular basis in order to reflect on some of the issues affecting the voluntary sector and filling up my in-tray as chief executive of NCVO.   

Tweet me @karlwilding with your thoughts.  

One of the things I care most about is how we can better work together to make a difference to the things we believe in. 

Today weve published a set of draft recommendations to help the sector shift its approach in this area. A result of collaborative work between NCVO, ACEVO and Lloyds Bank Foundation, it looks at the relationship between larger and smaller charities in contracting. 

Undoubtedly the commissioning and procurement environment is very difficult, but organisations’ own tendering practices can also lead to poorer outcomes for the people they are intended to serve. Some of the messages are difficult to hear – but there are things we can (and will) do to address this. It is important to remember that there are also many positive experiences and we want to share and build on those.    

Out and about

To give you a bit of a sense of where I’ve been in last month I’ve been lucky enough to visit Toynbee Hall (below) in East London, Lea Hall Social Club in Rugeley, Staffordshire, the St Thomas Centre in Manchester and a golf club in St Albans. The places couldn’t have been more different– but they are all part of our incredible sector.

Toynbee Hall

I wish you could have heard some of the conversations. One was about the history of our sector, and what’s changed over the last twenty years. The others were about the future, and what might change over the next decade. My crystal ball is probably as good as yours, but it made me think a bit more that looking to the past will give us a few clues as to the future. As the saying goes, history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.

A big thanks to Support Staffordshire for the invite to Rugeley, particularly as the local community was still recovering from some serious flooding. We talked about many things, but I came away thinking that we’ve got to double down on supporting people to become charity trustees, and more importantly to become good charity trustees. We’ve all got war stories about governance going wrong. People rarely set out to become trustees when they want to do something about the things they care about, so we have to help them. This stuff is so important to get right and while we already provide a lot of advice and support on governance, I’ll be thinking more about our role in this over the coming months.

I’ve been involved in a number of conversations about how charities can or should influence the new government, including at an EY/Social Club event (read a summary here). I said it feels like a time where we face some of those familiar tensions: whether or how to engageshould we be insiders or outsiders in our approach, and how to contribute positively to an agenda like ‘levelling up’ while also making constructive criticisms in that or other policy areas.

My answer is that we need to engage with the levelling up agenda. And I think we should offer a vision of why civil society – people coming together to get things done – is more important than ever. I’m going to write a bit more about this shortly.

I had a positive meeting with Number 10 advisors in the last few weeks and, following the reshuffle earlier this month, we now have more clarity on who we’ll be dealing with at a ministerial level. Our February 2020 Inside Track round-up has  a full run-down of the changes. 

Continuing the theme of collaboration, one of the highlights of my month has been getting together with people from other national umbrella bodies to think about how we can better support charities and volunteers. Many of us from the national bodies met earlier this week. The thread that ran through most of the conversation was how we can work together to tackle the bigger issues and build consensus, whether this is kickstarting the debate about the role of the sector in tackling the climate crisis, or the steps we need to take to move the dial on equity, diversity and inclusion. 

What I’m reading/listening to/watching  

  • Anyone in a leadership position should read this Twitter thread. I loved the line The dawning realization hits me: that I have been learning to ride a bike by reading about it .
  • If you want something to listen to, I’d recommend the episode of Radio 4’s Analysis programme, Get woke or go broke’. It’s about corporate responsibility and what companies are up to. I reckon it’s likely to be of interest to many of you. 

Coming up  

It’s not long until NCVO’s Annual Conference – I’m biased of course but I’m genuinely excited about the line-up and the opportunity to catch up with so many people.   

If the conference isn’t for you, NCVO will be out and about as usual over the next few months and we’ll be popping up in all sorts of places (Warrington, Stoke on Trent) in March, so do come along if it’s in your patch. 

We are working with the Equality Trust on some practical and accessible training around equality, diversity and inclusion.   

This is one of many things we’re doing to improve the way we work and the support we offer to our members around equality, diversity and inclusion (more details on this soon) and I’m grateful to many people, externally and internally who are challenging our thinking and helping us to develop a new approach.

Speaking of thinking differently – I’m also on the lookout for a new boss! Someone who can help us by challenging our thinking and supporting us as we explore new ways of doing things. Our new chair will join us as we conclude a pretty comprehensive strategy review and will help us translate this new vision into tangible action.   

If you haven’t already spotted it – the brilliant people at Mental Health First Aid England are about to launch a campaign called #MyWholeSelf. In 2020 we shouldn’t have to leave part of our identity – be that our cultural or ethnic background, sexuality or health – at the door when we get to work. It’s about bringing your whole self to work so that we can build deeper connections at work and improve our mental wellbeing. We’ll get behind the campaign, and I hope you will too.  

 

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