Why can’t the charitable sector realise ‘we are in it together’

I was going to title this entry ‘Why the voluntary sector sucks at thinking strategically’ but this was possibly a bit harsh. But I do think that there is a real problem, not with organisations thinking strategically, but with how organisations collectively look at the wider picture and what can be achieved by the sector by working together.

These thoughts were prompted by attending the South Cambridgeshire Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnership (CDRP). The papers for which are available here.

For years now collaboration, consortia, partnership working and any number of other variations of working together have been tried and tested by the sector with varying degrees of success. I realise we are all different, that we have different missions, visions and objectives BUT we must overcome this and find ways to think more strategically as a sector. We must also find ways in which we can collaborate together to look at some of the wider issues that statutory organisations are looking to address.

This meeting of the South Cambs CDRP looked at what had been achieved in the past year, and more importantly at what the priorities might be for the future. The bottom line is that this partnership is very good at the operational level work of bringing officers together to reduce crime and disorder. This is highlighted by South Cambs having the lowest number of crimes per 1000 residents of all the authorities it is compared against. This is down to great partnership working and great policing. So the priorities for the next year are – more of the same please. The partnership working is embedded and there will continue to be regular monitoring and meetings, this will be assisted by the use of some new IT systems. For the future there needs to be some additional work if the crime rate is going to be driven down, it will need a new approach that will have to concentrate on prevention as well as detection and punishment.

And it is here that the voluntary sector could be a key player, if we think strategically and work together. From projects that keep young people from offending or committing Anti-Social Behaviour, to projects to get villages to ‘look out for’ each other; from projects to make homes more secure, to projects that raise awareness of Domestic Violence and provide supportive ways to report this; the voluntary sector can deliver.

By looking at what we are doing, and where the gaps may be, by thinking creatively about the outcomes of our work and fitting these with priorities we could come up with a package of services that would make a real impact in preventing crime. This would give us the opportunity to look at funding for these services, especially where we could demonstrate the savings that could be made to the public purse by funding activities before problems occur. If we were really clever we could be linking different activities across not just crime and disorder but also health and wellbeing. So a project that helps people recognise drinking problems and change their behaviour not only reduces ASB and violent crime but also saves the health authorities money. A project that reduces distraction burglaries on elderly people by raising awareness and adding some simple security measures reduces crime, and also has potential savings as those affected by these burglaries often suffer from health issues brought on by stress and anxiety.

These are only simple examples that occur to me, I know that there are probably many more that I have not thought of. However I believe that it is not enough that we approach funders and statutory bodies individually with our projects, but that we work together to produce a collective set of proposals that together meet the priorities that are being set out by partnerships such as the CDRP. We should then work to get changes made to how things are funded and get politicians to justify why this type of project is not better at reducing spending than simply cutting services. There is no easy answer, and there will not be any simple outcomes that suddenly mean that the sector will find loads of new money, but we have a history of overcoming difficulties and changing mind-sets. If we work together we can change the way that funding is allocated, and if our statutory partners are going to continue to provide services in times of austerity they are going to have to realise that prevention is not only cheaper but better for communities and those living in them. So how do we do this given our already busy schedules and our conflicting visions? Well I will wait for you to tell me!

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