The third sector needs to assert its vision for the future, say key sector thinkers
25 October 2012
A Sounding Board of key figures in the voluntary sector has held its first meeting to discuss issues affecting the future of the sector. The meeting, hosted by the Third Sector Research Centre as part of the Futures Dialogues, addressed the impact of current economic and political changes – asking ‘is it the worst of times for the voluntary sector?’
The Sounding Board recognised that the scale of public expenditure cuts posed a significant challenge, especially to some segments of the sector. But they expressed concern about portraying the sector as a victim of the state and the market. The current ‘crisis’ may be an opportunity for charities to identify ways to change things positively.
The Board also noted a divide between public perception of the sector and the reality of what it does. The sector needs to assert a strong narrative vision for why it is here, they agreed.
The Sounding Board recognised that the current economic and political changes were affecting different parts of the sector very differently. They recognised that some frontline services were being hit particularly hard by cuts and asserted the importance of addressing need, especially of those who are most vulnerable and disadvantaged.
The Board stressed that, as boundaries between the state, voluntary sector and private companies continue to change, charities need to think about the best roles they can play in society.
But we cannot talk about the role of the voluntary sector in isolation – we need to address how they interact with the state and the private sector in any given area. The Board asserted the importance of government and third sector working together to find solutions to social problems. They called for the government to engage more with the sector – not only about money, but recognising the ability of the sector to inform policy decisions.
The Board also agreed that social action was likely to play an increasingly important role, and highlighted the importance of understanding how new technology was changing this landscape.
The Sounding Board includes representatives from national charity sector bodies, community groups, leading think tanks, funders, regulatory organisations and national government.
Pete Alcock, director of TSRC, said Pete Alcock, director of TSRC, said ‘At this stage of the process we have not got any definitive answers or prescriptions. However, the Sounding Board wants to be ambitious in its aims. They expect future deliberations to explore further the challenges the sector faces, the action it can take, and the support it needs. And they want to address the big questions of why the sector exists and how it can best deliver in the future. I am confident that though this process we will gain some real insight for the future of the third sector’
TSRC is hosting the Third Sector Futures Dialogues between September 2012 and April 2013 based on issues raised by our research. Stakeholders can get involved in each debate online. A Sounding Board of voluntary, community and policy representatives has been assembled discuss research findings and online debate. Our first Sounding Board meeting was held on 11 October.
The outcomes report is available here
For more information contact:
Naomi Landau, Knowledge Exchange Team
020 7520 2421