‘Together we are Stronger’

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 For those that don’t know me, I am Amber Skyring and I am the new CEO of Wessex Community Action.

This is my first BLOG for Wessex Community Action and I hope it will be one of many. However our BLOG pages on our website are there for you too and as a vehicle for sharing your stories and key messages close to your hearts and minds.

So please do let us have them by emailing them directly to me! amber@wessexcommunityaction.org.uk

I have now been in post 3 months, and I’m proud to say we have launched our new website, have a new training program being launched in the next few weeks;  and have hosted our first event for the sector in some time.

The Civil Society Strategy Event brought together the sector and speakers from the Govt Office of Civil Society, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations and One Planet CEO.

There were many familiar faces and many new and it was good to see nearly 70 organisations join us.

This was the first of many events, seminars and training that we shall be offering  (please sign up to our newsletter so you can stay in touch with us). Our intention is to re-establish a platform for organisations to come together to discuss local issues, to network and for organisations to find their voices again!

Our new strap line for WCA is ‘together we are stronger’

You could say it’s a bit of a cheesy strap line, but I genuinely believe that by coming together, collectively exploring the challenges and taking the opportunities for working together… Together we are stronger…

And if we are stronger by working together, then those we support, those that are the most vulnerable in society, will feel those benefits.

This is what it means to be part of being a civil, caring, supporting society.

Aristotle said… The sum is greater than the individual parts!

We know these are tough times; the landscape is very different to when I was working in Wiltshire 10 years ago.  

So I truly welcome a new strategy written by Government  that acknowledges the importance of the different sectors working together for the benefit of all society.

We know that there is still gross inequality in society and the new UN Envoy Report on Poverty in Britain is a shocking indictment of the austerity policy.

So what might we do together?  What might we do differently?

It’s probably simpler than we think; but not necessarily easy. It requires a different mind state and a different attitude; one I hope that builds on the qualities of integrity and creativity.  One of less judgement and one of connectivity, using what resources we have, creatively and skillfully with kindness and compassion at the heart of it all.

I found this quote by Vincent  Harding – professor from the Lliff  School of Theology in Denver, he says…

  ‘For me, the question of democracy opens up the question of what does it mean to be truly human. And it seems to me that we need to recognize that to develop the best humanity, the best spirit, the best community, there needs to be discipline, practices of exploring. How do you do that? How do we work together? How do we talk together in ways that will open up our best capacities and our best gifts?’

I find myself asking lots of questions and the event was the beginning of the sector hopefully coming together again,  to keep exploring and connecting and asking the question ‘How can we best work together so we are greater than the sum of the parts?

This is a really difficult question.  I believe, given the landscape of commissioning services has already created an arena of competition that inadvertently pitches the sector in competition with one another, when in the past they had worked collaboratively.

I was recently challenged for a comment that I made at the Civil Society Strategy Event. My statement reflected that commissioning services has muddied the waters around the independence of the sector, and that this requires continued ongoing debate by us all. I stand by this statement. The Voluntary and Community Sector are independent of government. This is an important part of the history and culture of the sector.

The process of commissioning has the potential to threaten independence of the sector because, even if organisations did not agree with government cuts or the commissioning of services, they were unlikely to speak out for fear of ruining their relationships with funders.

Individual charities, and the sector as a whole, must hold onto their values and continue to operate independently of both state and markets.

Our independence and values give users and donors confidence in our services and advocacy.They enable us to challenge government and markets and speak up for individuals and communities who might not otherwise be heard.

In short, the sector’s independence and values are vital for democracy.

“There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must take it because his conscience tells him it is right.” Martin Luther King.

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