People power2012 matthewsmerdon_speakingtruthtopower
Speaking Truth to Power Caroline Slocock Civil Exchange Matthew Smerdon Baring Foundation
Protecting independence: the voluntary sector in 2012“A great deal is lost if the sector ceases to be able to give voice to the voicelessor deliver uncomfortable truths to those with power. This is a two way street.Voluntary organisations need to know that if they produce evidence-basedcritiques or challenges, this will not be held against them. They should not needto make the choice between being able to provide vital services to a client groupand being able to speak out on their behalf.”
Background on the PanelPurpose: to make independence a top priority, raising awareness andunderstanding, suggesting practical changesPanel of seven members and one Adviser: –Dame Anne Owers –Prof Nicholas Deakin –Andrew Hind –Sir Bert Massie –Julia Unwin –Louise Whitfield –Nick Wilkie –advised by Matthew Smerdon
Definition of independenceIndependence of PURPOSE• To set and review purpose to match changing needs of the cause represented• To maintain purpose, mission and valuesIndependence of VOICE• To protest, campaign and negotiate without fear of retribution• To be assertive about independence, focusing on the cause representedIndependence of ACTION• To design and deliver activities that meet needs• To innovate, respond creatively to needs and take risks• To use assets at discretion of Trustees
Context• Voluntary sector almost always relies on others for funding• Increasing reliance on state over last decade, especially those working indisadvantaged areas with disadvantaged groups• Increasingly statutory funding comes via contracts rather than grants• Squeeze on funding can bring independence into sharp relief
Six challenges• The effect of contract rather than grant funding• Inability of voluntary sector to influence the design of services and contracts•The blurring of boundaries between the public, not for profit and voluntarysectors•Indirect and sometimes direct pressure towards self-censorship, muting thevoice of some in the sector•The pressures on independent governance as trustees seek to balance survivaland independence•Regulatory systems and safeguards may not be sufficiently robust.
Whose voice is it anyway?• Compact Voice said that “a significant long standing threat [in relation toindependence] is the fear of retribution if organisations challenge a public bodyover infringement of their independence.”• Public Administration Committee Select Committee member has challengedthe right of voluntary sector organisations to speak out against the Government• Iain Duncan Smith last year criticised the Child Poverty Action Group’s legalchallenge to housing benefit reforms as “ridiculous and irresponsible behaviour.”•Fake charity website defines a “fake charity” as “any organisation registered asa UK charity that derives more than 10% of its income – and/or more than £1m –from the government, while also lobbying the government.”• Reports of some charities losing capacity for advocacy work, due to tighterfunding.
Factors affecting independence of voice• Is there capacity?• Is there unnecessary self-censorship?• Is there legitimacy of voice – reflecting views and voices of people andcommunities served?• Is there a clear mandate through a strong evidence base?• Do funding and other relationships support independence of voice?
Is this our future?“Independence once enjoyed by mutual aid and religious organisations hasevolved into a complex, embedded relationship with government in which thenonprofit and voluntary sector primarily strives to achieve a productiveinterdependent partnership rather than an independent or civil societyrelationship….Contractual obligations dominate, and representative advocacyhas been marginalised in favour of policy forums for the generic citizen.”The First Principle of Voluntary Action, 2009
DiscussionSplitting into small groups:Please discuss:(iv)what are the pressures on the ability of campaigners to speak truth to power,now and in the near future(v)how can these pressures be resisted(vi)(possibly a bit more fun…) What are the “Two Things” about speaking truth topower.
“The Two Things” – some examplesThe Two Things about passing your The Two Things about Medicine:driving test 1. Do no harm.1. Don’t hit anything 2. To do any good, you must risk doing2. Don’t let anything hit you harm.The Two Things about Being a House The Two Things about self-help:Husband: 1. If you can tolerate a little discomfort,1. That can wait until tomorrow. you can achieve almost any goal2. That can too. 2. It’s amazing the lengths we’ll go to to avoid discomfort.