January is over, I have already failed on most of my New Year Resolutions and I have been to a lot of meetings. These meetings are important and as a CVS it is our role to go and represent the sector, but I do wonder what would happen if we were not there. Would the world stop turning – NO; would you stop providing services – NO; would the statutory organisations who generally call these meetings stop having them – NO; would the sector get forgotten about or marginalise – MAYBE; would the sector be misrepresented and misunderstood – MAYBE; would the sector be assumed to be able to do ‘stuff’ for ‘nothing’ – YOU BETCHA’
This is not the first time that this thought about the value of meetings has made me think What would happen differently if these meetings did not exist? It is important that we keep evaluating what it is we do and why; here at CCVS we are currently in the beginning stages of looking at what our strategy will be in the future, so once again I questioned why so much of my time is spent sitting in meetings with lots of important people talking about stuff.
For info the meetings I have attended in January include
- The Fenland Health and Wellbeing Partnership
- A County Council Communications and Project Board Meeting
- The South Cambridgeshire Local Health Partnership
- The Fenland Community safety Partnership
- A City Council Prevent meeting
- The City Council Local Health Partnership
At all these meetings the work that voluntary sector groups do is integral to the work, priorities and targets of the statutory partners; sometimes this work is recognised and the groups involved are obvious, hardly ever are the efforts of the groups rewarded with funding and support. Often the work of many groups is not thought to be contributing when it is, both directly and indirectly – and that is a big part of my job. I am there to remind people of all the wonderful and diverse work that the sector does; to point out that this work needs to be resourced; and to highlight the fact that just because a lunch club does not see itself as providing health benefits it is doing so in many ways – by reducing isolation and loneliness, by serving nutritious food and by noticing when someone unexpectedly misses a session and popping round to check they are OK.
I am good at getting the sectors profile raised; I have learnt how to sound a little less like a stuck record when reminding people that we do need money; I have helped some people who did not understand the sector understand it better. This is all good but in the long run in this time of austerity will it bring in more funding and more support and better opportunities for you to engage? A recent blog by Joe Saxton for NFP synergy railed against voluntary groups spending time lobbying politicians, my response to that was that at a local level we were not and that we are continuing to get on with helping people and doing our thing. I do however believe that we are affected by the things that happen in politics both nationally and locally. We have to make people aware of:
- the work we do,
- the impact of their decisions on those that we work with and support
- the issues that are affecting the lives of people in their constituency/district
I will continue to speak up for the sector but you need to as well. I will continue to attend meetings so that you do not have to and can get on with your important work. But at the same time CCVS relies on your input to give us a bird’s eye view of what is happening on the ground. So my challenge to you is to let me have your insights and stories, what is great about what you have done? What are the burning issues? What ways can we join up with strategies that are in place and what ways can we ensure we drive agendas in the future?
Harrisons Fund for the first five VCS organisations in Cambridge, South Cambs and Fenland that get back to me with their stories and ideas of how we can drive change and show statutory partners the difference we make.