I attended last week’s Forth Valley Third Sector conference and was extremely impressed by the dynamic and versatile nature of our thriving voluntary sector. I have been away from working full time in the sector since 2006 and it was therefore a rewarding experience to be amongst my colleagues form across Forth Valley in common cause and to hear first-hand about the successes and aspirations for the sector. There was a keynote speech from the Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government Aileen Campbell MSP, who clearly is a champion of the sector and it was heartening to hear her acknowledgment of the absolutely critical role that the sector has played in supporting communities through the COVID crises. She characterised a sector with no logos, no egos and no silos which has worked with care and compassion right at the core of the community and supported services from befriending, connecting with the lonely and isolated and provided food and welfare to the most vulnerable within our communities. This action had more widely demonstrated what can be achieved when communities are empowered, and bureaucracy is stripped away. The third sector will be critical to the wellbeing and future of our communities as we recover and rebuild post COVID, our communities will be strengthened by this continuing support, dedication, and skills of the sector. There was however an understanding that the sector must have full an equal parity when governments make strategic decisions about funding and policy priorities and this was acknowledged as an area that can improve and that to not facilitate this would be to miss a real trick. The third sector is thus a key player in the National Performance Framework. On a similar theme the need for sustainable funding and the avoidance of sudden ends to funds and the timescales for renewed funding were all areas that could be improved for the third sector and therefore for local communities.
The conference was used to highlight the new Third sector national strategy: The Manifesto for Change, and it cannot be emphasised enough that post COVID Scotland will be reliant upon these manifesto recommendations being acted upon and implemented in full. Here ae the key recommendations:
The TSI Scotland Network calls for:
Place: A decisive shift of emphasis and resources to help support and ensure community delivery of place – based services where the wellbeing of people , places and the environment come before profit to protect the communities and most vulnerable in our societies.
Community: Increased investment to build capacity and resilience by the TSI Scotland Network to ensure that every community in Scotland maintains robust , representative and resourced community-led organisations or partnerships that serve local needs.
Connected: Clear connection between TSI Scotland Network with Scottish Government directorates to inform the necessary policy changes to ensure implementation of localised place-based strategies for economic renewal.
Volunteering: Recognition that the TSI Scotland Network can make a unique contribution to empower inclusive volunteering and maximise the social and community action that emerged through Covid-19
Fair work: Employment schemes that are linked to community, wealth-building and creating fair, inclusive and sustainable economies, to maximise community benefit, reduce poverty, and inequalities and tackle the climate emergency.
This is a radical agenda and one that builds from community empowerment, local action. and off course Our Place.
The full manifesto report can be found here: https://tsi.scot/manifesto/
Our Place Camelon and Tamfourhill were at the centre of the conference workshops and wider debates, and there was much discussed that was relevant to our own communities and in my case operational direction and examples of good practice which could be suitable for developing community safety initiatives locally. A strong third sector means a strong community; this is so relevant in the world after the pandemic but the response to date offers a glimpse to a thriving and dynamic future for local communities throughout Scotland.