THIRD SECTOR SEMINAR WITH JIM MATHER MSP
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]
· 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
· 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
· 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
· 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.
· 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