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Calls for sector leadership – ring out the old bring in the new...

Monday, January 14, 2013

 It is a New Year tradition, ring out the old and bring in the new, and none of us are immune to it, not even political parties. The coalition government announced on Jan 8th what is lovingly dubbed their ‘renewal vows’. A public display of “We are in this together for the good of the nation” or, if you take the analogy further “...for the kids” but, guess what? The kids are growing up and seeking emancipation, the respective families are not warring, but definitely not liking each other, and no renewal ritual is easily going to bridge the gap completely.

So, what is in this renewal for the voluntary sector? Nada! Zip! Nothing! We are the kids they didn’t even know they maybe it is time that we started ringing out the long silenced voices and make ready for bringing in our emancipation, on our terms....

Towards the end of 2012 there was a growing call from many parts of the voluntary sector for leadership. For some, the call is for a Lord Heseltine-type figure that would shine a light on the plight of the sector, leaving ‘no stone unturned’. For others, it stems from the plight of the people and communities they serve, as they see cherished and vital services diminish and disappear.

So what is it that the sector is wanting? Let us be honest - there is not one single champion, and there is unlikely to be one, riding on the fledgling waves of economic growth to rescue the sector; we need to develop and deliver our own rules of engagement with the ‘in pursuit of growth’ agenda, where we organise ourselves within boundaries that work for us, and not be seduced by LEPs, CCGs or economic zones, to conform to artificial localities that have no basis for the individuals or communities that we support.

We need to get our (small ‘p’) politics in order and join forces for the greater, rather than the individual, organisational good. We need to recognise that 'community' is big business, employing over 50,000 individuals and supporting 435,000 volunteers in the West Midlands alone, and that we have been doing it for years. We are an economic force on which we have never fully capitalised, thus leaving us exposed on the sustainability front if we continue to remain passive economic players in our communities.

In the distant past there was a West Midlands third sector leaders forum and maybe, just maybe, it is time to dust this off, bring back collective VOICE and seek the emancipation that gives the sector the right to compete on a level playing field, and to determine and make decisions, fully cognisant of all the facts. This would be a coalition worth renewing, a leadership model worth nurturing, and a way of forging links that will give us greater economic value and worth than our £21M expenditure (2011-2012 filed accounts) would suggest.

RAWM is opening a channel of debate on this subject, and therefore welcomes your thoughts, comments and observations. RAWM will also, over the coming months, explore the economic impact of the sector in the West Midlands, which will be shared through briefings.

If you are interested in finding out more about any of the above, then do contact us on