Friday, 2 March 2012

Speech, Speech

Another really enjoyable week, and 1 March means that in the gardening calendar Spring is here, which is great.

Slightly more seriously, I gave a presentation to a Children England SE Families Network about social finance, pointing out that historically social philanthropy pre-dated the welfare state and was not new, and then one of the participants sent me the Prime Minister’s recent speech to Business in the Community (which I had NOT seen) which had an identical theme and the same examples. I have since been accused of being Dave’s speech writer!! Both my powerpoint and the PM’s speech are on our website.

I met last week with great people from BitC and in consequence this week we already being offered links to major companies looking for volunteering projects.

I met with colleagues from West Sussex Council for Voluntary Youth Services and East Sussex CVYS in a network session facilitated by our national umbrella body (NCVYS). The sharing of practice, funding levels, challenges /opportunities is invaluable.

My big theme this week, and I think a continuing concern, is about the implications of commissioning/contracting for the voluntary sector. The issue turns on whether you think best value is achieved by competition in the market place with a mix of suppliers (and consequent barriers to sharing data/practice/IPR) or to a more partnership/collaborative approach…..grant giving approach. This is I fear inevitably highly political, and we see the issue being played out now in the current NHS Health Bill.

My own approach is to hedge my bets….assume that Commissioning is here for good….but to challenge the (unproductive) cost of the commissioning/ procurement / outcomes / performance management process (“you don’t fatten the pig by weighing it”), to point out the impossibility of measuring outcomes in the complex world of social policy…where I would argue there is no straight line between Action A and Consequence B….and the loss of collaboration that will ensue as contractors compete to hold on to what they have won. I know it’s heresy, but I still think there’s scope for collaboration/partnership…and grants (in a rigorous way).

It is a CRUCIAL issue, for the commissioning/contracting model will transform and marketise a great chunk of the sector, and, importantly, I don’t see how the economies of scale/ reduced transaction costs of large scale commissioning are reconciled with The Big Society, Volunteering, and Localism…that apart I don’t have much to say!

Regular readers will (not) be absolutely fascinated to know that I had a good session with my MA Theology tutor this week, and my dissertation is progressing - 20,000 words by end May – done half so far.  No rugby this week-end, but my church is entertaining the outgoing Bishop of Chichester at Evensong on Saturday. Well… it takes all sorts.


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