If the pandemic has shown us anything as a nation – our neighbourhoods and communities are alive and kicking with third sector organisations and volunteers ready to respond and step up in a crisis. That is the view of the Third Sector Interface (TSI) Scotland Network who have launched their first ever Manifesto for Change as a Network ahead of the 2021 elections.
There are 32 TSIs in Scotland one for each local authority areas and they cover strands of work – supporting volunteering, charities and community groups and social enterprises. In the majority of local authorities, they combine all the functions of the TSIs’ work under one roof and in larger urban and geographic areas they are partnerships. As well as working to support their sector they collaborate and represent the sector with partners in councils, business community and health and social care partnerships across Scotland. They are in the enviable position of having a foot in many corners of our daily lives – and yet they are often not recognised for the work they undertake – until now.
The TSI Scotland Network organisations have often had much variance in their roles locally but Covid-19 has brought them closer together as they all sought to implement emergency supports: coordinate lifeline responses, funnel funding and place hundreds of volunteers to local roles. Now their leaders share an aspiration to find new ways to create a fairer future for Scotland. They have set out an inspiring agenda for change that puts the emphasis and call for resources and investment, to move with more pace to communities and grass-roots organisations. They are seeking to gain further investment to ensure each community has a community organisation or partnership of organisations with the capacity, opportunities and skills to meet the local needs.
Ella Simpson our Chief Executive is among the leaders involved in developing this manifesto, “Community-led organisations and volunteers responded to COVID-19 magnificently, helping to mitigate the worst effects of lockdown. As we move forward we need to capture the spirit of that and use it to build a fairer future”.
The Network is also asking to be connected in to more of the Scottish Government directorates so they can help inform and shape the right policies for communities – helping to ensure that better coordination and funding gets to the people who need it most. As they were the organisations who took the lead role in placing volunteers through Covid-19 and maximising the community responses – they rightly are asking for the investment for that to continue. They are also looking to link and support new employability programmes to community wealth-building and the third sector in better ways in the future.
The TSI Scotland Network recognises that national third sector organisations have a role to play – but they are adding that if we really want to protect our communities and the people in them and tackle inequalities – then action and change is needed. These proposal in essence also push for a shift of power away from statutory government promoting greater devolution and decision-making, community empowerment and participatory budgeting, enable citizenship and voices to be heard, to allow communities to make the choices and decisions they want.
The Network leaders see this is a cliff-hanging moment where more investment in the right parts of our country’s fabric could have overwhelming benefits and protect the most vulnerable. What the TSI Scotland Network has never done before – is say this collectively, with assurance and knowledge, learnt through the tough moments of the last few months and with a confidence that they can play a singular and lasting role in achieving this.