The #NeverMoreNeeded coalition recently published a review of how the coalition has worked together during the Covid-19 pandemic. It has since drawn some attention and so, before we end this extraordinary year, I want to take this opportunity to highlight some of what this unprecedented level of collaboration has meant.
The pandemic has been a hugely challenging time for us all, but is also an opportunity to do things differently.
Pre-Covid the sector has been notoriously poor at being able to work together. Sometimes this has been used to divide and conquer us; that we cannot speak with one voice. Personally, I don’t think we should always ‘speak with one voice’ but that’s a whole other blog! But during this pandemic the government has noticed joint work and this successful togetherness has delivered much more than if we had been working entirely separately.
Going into this crisis many of us in the main infrastructure organisations could see both the need and the opportunity for working with each other, avoiding the silos that can prevail. From before the budget and first lockdown, a group of infrastructure organisations came together to make representations to the chancellor about the support the sector would need. This pre-budget work is always kickstarted by CFG in ‘ordinary times’, given the role we play. This year was no exception.
Jane Ide’s (formerly the CEO of NAVCA) foresight and encouragement, that we should continue this collaboration in preparation for the wider disaster to come led to a number of virtual meetings, early on, with a range of sub-sector representatives.
We very quickly broke into sub-groups with responsibility for regulation, funding, contracting, grants & foundations, volunteering, equality and communications; each with an infrastructure lead/leads.
The inimitable Debra Alcock Tyler of DSC threw significant DSC resource behind the collaboration and we split work into a smaller group to lead on the above strands and a wider group of more than 40 organisations, meeting weekly to share information, combine resources and drive up collaboration. It’s not been perfect, of course, but the collaboration has been considerable.
The Charity Commission have responded really well during this pandemic. This is not an accident of fate. Since the start of this crisis the collaboration’s sub-group, empowered to speak on behalf of us all, has been meeting regularly with CC staff.
Remember the potentially disastrous false start of the serious incident reporting guidance in the early days of the pandemic? It was the work of these people that helped the CC understand how wrong they had got it in tone and approach. As for the extensions to filing deadlines? Yep - that’s as a response to the requests of the sector working together through this collaboration.
#NeverMoreNeeded was chosen because we are a broad church of different causes and approaches. Not just charities, but social enterprises too. Whilst it has been difficult for some to get their head around, the hashtag has the potential to enable social change organisations, and their supporters, to use it in the way that is most relevant to their context. Whether that is saying that the sector itself is #NeverMoreNeeded, or volunteers, or donors, or the services that we provide. The flexibility is there to try and speak to a broad spectrum of view and voices.
The #NeverMoreNeeded campaign may not have succeeded in getting as much traction to date as we would have liked, since its creation in late summer, but it’s important to recognise that much bigger and stickier challenges lay behind that. More resource and willingness to get behind a sector-wide initiative could remedy this.
The wonderful creative, patient and resourceful Adeela Warley, CEO of Charity Comms, leads the communications sub-group and has the task of reconciling the almost unreconcilable – seeking agreement on messaging from large and small, insiders and the more outspoken, those who think we should deny the institution of charity (and focus on donors) and conversely those who think without the institution of charity social change cannot happen.
That we’ve managed to achieve coverage in broadsheet, mainstream broadcast media and within the sector at the level we have, against this context, is itself quite an accomplishment.
But we can do more. We can achieve more.
Coming off the sidelines
It is important that it is not the collaboration itself that gets the limelight. We’re not doing this for accolades from our respective members – we are doing it to try and drive change. Despite some commentators’ assertions to the contrary, we are not starting from a good position with those holding power.
We may have an established ‘inside’ track but frankly it’s been a long time since civil society featured anywhere near the priorities list of government. Remember Big Society?! I share this not to be defensive to those who criticise, but to shine a light on some of the other things collaboration has managed to secure.
#NeverMoreNeeded could have great cut-through if individuals and organisations throw their combined resources behind it. I implore you to do so.
The collaboration has been tough. I won’t lie and say it has been easy. But we have worked so hard to draw on the resources of a broader group than has never worked together before. I for one am proud of some of the things achieved and those working hard to;
- secure multi-million pounds support for the sector
- amend the loans schemes
- secure changes in regulatory and reporting requirements
- establish schemes to deploy volunteers
- ensure that the most disadvantaged in society don’t bear the biggest load from this crisis
and much more… There are many invisible heroes working hard for those the sector supports whilst also trying to save their own organisations.
As I’ve said in a previous blog we all need to ‘buzz as loudly as we can – our citizens need us, now is not the time to attack each other’s hives, steal each other’s honey or hibernate.’
So, let’s all get behind the #NeverMoreNeeded campaign and the unprecedented collaboration within the sector, even if we have valid criticisms we can make. Because now is not the time to say ‘I wouldn’t do it that way’, or ‘why don’t others do X, Y and Z?’ Now is the time to get off the side line and onto the field of play.
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