AT the last of EVOC’s series of #TwilightTalks, where the city’s Third Sector met Councillors and prospective Councillors, representatives of the SNP committed themselves to working with the Third Sector to find more sustainable ways of funding the vital services the Sector delivers.
On behalf of Edinburgh’s Third Sector Interface, EVOC hosted a series of evening discussion events where a range of representatives from a spread of organisations met up with the main political parties – one at a time. The last of these, on Tuesday 03 April saw four prospective Councillors from the city’s SNP group, Frank Ross joined Councillors Ronnie Cairns, Stuart Roy McIvor and Rob Munn in a frank and honest exchange of views.
In welcome, EVOC Director Ella Simpson re-iterated the key challenges within the Edinburgh Third Sector Manifesto: the need for creative, effective Leadership; the need for Trusting relationships; a commitment to Fair Employment which sustainably improves quality of life; a clear recognition that Social and Environmental costs and benefits are as important as Economic outturns; and the challenge to Make Co-Production the Norm.
Cllr Ronnie Cairns was enthusiastic, ‘Your Manifesto’s Fantastic,’ he said, encouraging us to look out for the SNP’s manifesto which was due out soon.
Picking up on the theme of Partnership, Cllr Rob Munn committed the group to working with the city’s Third Sector – a valued resource (‘Without volunteers,’ Cllr Cairns added, ‘Edinburgh would grind to a halt!’) – to develop new ways of sustainable funding.
Frank Ross took the opportunity to express an interest in Social Impact Bonds as a ‘very strong potential source of finance,’ and laid down his group’s commitment to Fair Employment in the shape of a Living Wage for all Council-funded workers.
Much of the conversation centred around funding that evening. Third Sector colleagues challenged the candidates on Competitive Tendering, annual contracts, and the broader impacts of uncertain funding on Third Sector organisations, staff and often-vulnerable service users.
The candidates were united in their frustration with the Alternative Business Models approach, ‘unsure if the sums actually add up,’ and reliant ‘on officers’ advice.’
The floor expressed some frustration, too. The points were passionately put that the Sector did offer Value for Money, that it was flexible and responsive, and that the diversity of Third Sector activity in, with and for communities builds the rich social fabric which makes good places.
‘Third Sector organisations have felt as if we have had a gun to our heads,’ the floor spoke up against a too-narrow focus on driving down costs.
In turn the candidates recognised that lessons had been learned, that keeping dialogue open was essential to achieving our shared aims, and that engaging in the semi-formal #TwilightTalks event had been useful.
Ending on a positive note, Cllr Munn assured the audience that the candidates were listening to the Third Sector, and were committed to keeping that dialogue going.
Looking back at this series of #TwilightTalks, EVOC will assess the benefits to the sector. If you found this series useful, please do let us know. As we plan for future events in the #TwilightTalks series, please send us your suggestions for topics or formats. At EVOC we are keen that ThinkSpace – whether by way of blogs or social media or events – is a useful and usable resource for the city’s Third Sector.
See you up the Front!