Diversity at risk as OCS slashes strategic partners

Diversity at risk as OCS slashes strategic partners
Chrisanthi Giotis, Social Enterprise Live

Social enterprise support organisations are in danger of losing the government’s ear after news that the Office for Civil Society is to slash its strategic partners programme.

Civil society minister Nick Hurd wrote to the Office for Civil Society’s (OCS’s) strategic partners last week announcing that the programme was to be slimmed down from £12.1m to a maximum of £7.5m and from 40 partners to a maximum of 15.

Most organisations contacted by Social Enterprise said their main concern was that the diversity of the social enterprise sector may not be represented in a slimmed down programme – especially as the programme was recently expanded specifically to better reflect the diversity of the sector.

The OTS strategic partners programme was launched in 2006 but by 2008 it had expanded to include several new social enterprise strategic partners.

The School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE), in partnership with UnLtd, was among the organisations admitted later on.

Policy and communications director at SSE Nick Temple said: ‘The reason the partners programme was expanded was, at the time, it was felt that the Social Enterprise Coalition (SEC) wasn’t necessarily representing the full spectrum of voices.

‘I think we have a better working relationship with SEC now but you could argue that is the result of the strategic partnership programme.

‘I understand the reasoning, in that it is a lot of organisations, but are 15 organisations going to represent the whole spectrum, and not just the whole spectrum within social enterprise but in the other areas too?’

Plunkett Foundation head of information and communication Mike Perry said: ‘We hugely value our strategic partnership with OCS. It enables us to ensure that when policies are developed which effect social enterprises the voice of rural social enterprises is represented.

‘The partnership has played a huge role in getting rural social enterprise to where it is today.’

Social Firms CEO Sally Reynolds said she was worried that the ‘modest size’ of the social firms sub-sector of the social enterprise movement would count against the organisation.

‘Yet we have potentially the most interesting agenda of real job creation for the coalition government,’ said Reynolds.

Development Trusts Association policy and research officer Isabelle Pitt said: ‘We welcome attempts to make the scheme more strategic, but raise the issue that by reducing numbers to 15 the OCS runs the risk of failing to support organisations that represent overlooked or disadvantaged groups.’

This was a concern echoed by Acevo director of strategy Seb Elsworth.

SEC CEO Peter Holbrook said the announcement of the review of the strategic partners programme came as ‘no big surprise’ and that SEC was happy to ‘contribute what we can to the review process’.

The minister’s letter also told the strategic partners that no one partner would receive more than £500,000 in total and no organisation would receive more than 25 per cent of their organisation’s funding from the strategic partners programme.

SEC is one of only six organisations to receive more £500,000 (see list below). Of the organisations interviewed by Social Enterprise, Social Firms UK receives more than 25 per cent of its funding from the OCS strategic partners programme.

Several organisations told Social Enterprise they may look at alliances so as to make a stronger case for being chosen as one of the 15 partners.

OCS could not confirm to Social Enterprise which organisations were part of the programme from the beginning and which were added later.

Social Enterprise magazine would like your opinion on who should remain a strategic partner, comment below or email news@socialenterpriselive.com

OCS Strategic Partners – who gets what at the moment:

Plunkett Foundation

School for Social Entrepreneurs (with UnLtd)

Third Sector European Network

Social Enterprise London

Church Urban Fund

Charity Trustee Networks

Consortium of LGB&T VCOs

British Youth Council

Urban Forum

Co-operatives UK

Foyer Federation

Community Action Network

Social Firms UK

Association of Charitable Foundations

Development Trusts Association

Charities Evaluation Services


Youth Action Network

Women’s Resource Centre

Citizenship Foundation

Community Foundation Network



National Council for Voluntary Youth Services

Community Development Exchange

Community Matters

Institute of Fundraising



The National Youth Agency



Youthnet UK


Social Enterprise Coalition

Mentoring and Befriending Foundation



Volunteering England

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