Third Sector Seminar


7 JANUARY 2008



Constraints, Inhibitors, Lost Opportunities, Lessons and Misalignments
What are the weaknesses and barriers facing the third sector?
·         Government culture to date has been ‘too municipal’
·         Too much ‘Political short-termism’
·         Financial targets invariably short term – the sector is funding led
·         Need to look at long term investment in terms of ‘Social Return’

·         Funders are constantly looking for innovative and new approaches – agreed business plans should be the driver [we should be supporting what works]

·         Funding could be more efficient, can we produce a better way? Loans as well as grants?  A more strategic approach?

·         Power relationship – malady – need for increased focus on outcomes and ownership of outcomes

·         There are no real alternatives to government money for the third sector & too much command & control by all funders

·         Capacity & resources are skewed towards fund raising

·         Consequence of this is a lack in independence and self-censorship – too much timidity, we should look for different sustainable financial models

·         Too bureaucratic, paperwork increasing, red tape – need to reduce audit burden dramatically

·         With 32 local authorities and numerous departments – we need to streamline with COSLA

·         Lack of effective performance monitoring methodologies – ‘quality of life’ and ‘social added value’  considerations need to be factored into performance monitoring

·         Single /standard systems of reporting needed, crisper simpler – easy to compile and audit compliant – streamlined reporting in line with the amount of money involved

·         Lack of strategic evaluation on the effectiveness of funding and the effectiveness of funding programmes

·         Participatory finance – 40% of organisations are not funded by government but by their volunteers and participants

·         Poor quality commissioning of public services with third sector organisations competing in the market but losing out because domination of ‘Cost’ principles
·         Best value guidance – not always followed
·         Does the sectors contribution clash with the Efficient Government agenda – or is Efficient Government an opportunity for the sector?
·         UK Fiscal policy – not conducive to optimising the contribution of the third sector
·         Frequent failure to implement good national policies at local level – one size fits all policy making [problem for the local level generally but particularly noted as an issue for rural Scotland] ·         Conflict of interest – with some commissioners [of services]  also providers [third sector not competing on a level playing field] ·         There is a perceived lack of status and voice for the sector at local government level

·         Tokenism – the third sector might have seat at the Community Planning table but not always involved in decision making.

·         DWP legislation – volunteers receiving DWP benefits could potentially have their benefit entitlement cut / withdrawn
·         The third sector does not always cooperate well, there is not enough ownership of the cooperation issue in the sector – who owns the coordination job?
·         Who will do the job of’ Life Science, the Scotch Whisky Association or the  Scottish Financial Enterprise in the third sector and pull the sector together?
·         The sector is not good at scaling-up what works, or replicating
·         Cluttered landscape? However one persons clutter is another persons niche
·         The sector is not good at deciding when an organisation is ‘no longer cutting’ it
·         Not enough trust shown to players in the sector – we need to build this up to new levels – based on experience and performance
·         There is a  need for a new relationship [with the third sector] in line with the Concordat between Government and Local Government.
·         Third  sector is a buffer zone – they are the filler of gaps in service provision, but it is too expendable at present and too likely to be a whipping boy – we need a balanced score card
·         There is a lack of cross pollination within the third sector, immature partnerships – the sector needs to be confident in sharing good ideas & outcomes

·         A feeling of geographical isolation , there is a potential need for an ideas Swap Shop

·         Confidence issues – tendency ‘not to blow own trumpet’

·         Burn-out by individuals is a real issue, specifically in rural & urban areas with the same person quite often doing a multiple of tasks

·         Potential dilemma between funders outcomes & the needs of the local community – an organisation might be `cutting it` in the eyes of the community but not the funder – there is a need for a valid [bottom-up] methodology to assess success.

·         Language used is not always understood by everyone i.e. third sector, voluntary sector, social enterprise, social economy – you sometimes have to tailor it depending on who you speak to

·         Training and strategic investment – need to invest in staff – career planning, there is no recognised professional road map within the sector

·         We need to have a better forum for information exchange & more research

·         There is a need to gather evidence of social impact –  quality of life considerations needs to be factored into evaluation/commissioning

·         Third Sector is up to 25% of the Finnish Economy, however, in Scotland the Third Sector is only 4% of the Economy – why the difference? Do we need research?


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