It would be really easy to kick our toys out of the pram just now. It seems that there is increasing pressure to be “part of the solution” and we in the Third Sector are suddenly being heralded as the “innovators who get things done”. Oh – but “can you do all this and more, with even less?”
I am under no illusions about how difficult it is for Third Sector organisations at the moment. As well as the time and resources used to engage with the statutory sector in policy and strategy development, community planning, capacity planning, scoping exercises – the list goes on – there is also increasing demand from the people engaged with our services.
While things might be tough for our organisations, it’s clear that they are horrendous for many of the people the sector works with. Addressing this must be central to our efforts.
Making a difference in people’s lives is what drives us in the Third Sector. I believe that while things are tough we have a real opportunity to change how we DO things – with the individuals who use our services and with the statutory sector. The statutory sector is clearly beginning to think differently. Not just because of budget pressure but because the reality of social policy is changing. Nationally and locally the questions being asked are “what is the social value?”, “what is the community benefit?”, “how is this pushing forward real change and helping people to stay in their communities?” and “will this provide a truly personalized service?”. Increasingly it is not just about the financial bottom line.
The Third Sector Manifesto for Council Elections 2012, recently published on behalf of the Edinburgh Third Sector Interface, highlights a number of proposals worth considering – proposals for ways to change how we do things. I encourage you to take a look at the ideas contained in the Manifesto, and bring these into the dialogues that you share with the people around you. The opportunity for change is real.
No, the system in which we operate is not perfect, and yes, there are some times when it feels like we are the very junior party at the table. But remember, folks, not that very long ago there were far fewer spaces at the table with our name on them! I am exceptionally proud of the knowledge, expertise, skills and commitment the Third Sector brings to the discourse. We cannot and should not be complacent about how we deliver our services and the impact we have on social policy development and service delivery.
So we can whinge and gripe, or we can try to shape a better future for the people who use our services. Let’s choose wisely.