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VOL-SECTOR-STUDIES-NETWORK  June 2012

VOL-SECTOR-STUDIES-NETWORK June 2012

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Subject:

Re: Being forced to change business model because of funding

From:

Tina Wallace <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

VSSN <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 14 Jun 2012 08:58:10 +0100

Content-Type:

text/plain

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k>,<[log in to unmask]> <[log in to unmask]>
To: VSSN <[log in to unmask]>
X-Mailer: Apple Mail (2.1278)

This is perhaps the fundamental question, certainly for me.....where do NGOs position themselves in relation to power and those they seek to work with who by definition lack opportunities, access to resources and power and voice.

Is there anything unique about the third sector and if so wherein does it lie? Surely it has to be rooted in concepts of social justice, challenging the unfair use of power, inequality and exclusion. If those are not the core values (which in development all NGOs have in their missions and mandates for sure) then it is fine to compare who delivers services most effectively and efficiently, who sets the rules and allowing private sector rules and methods to dominate NGO approaches etc. The importance of the third sector, however defined and whatever semantics are used, is whether it is able to question, challenge, critique and promote the voices of those usually unheard by  those making decisions.

If that is seen as out dated and backward looking then I agree with those who question the need for a third sector at all.

The purpose and mandates of the private sector and Government are very different to those that underpin many NGOs and why the public supports them. If the purpose can be clearly restated then issues like methodology, approach, position in relation to power etc can be properly critiqued and analysed...but how far have many become, as someone said early on, effectively corporates and making considerable profits spent on their own organisations?

In 1980s agencies such as Oxfam and Christian Aid debated these issues vigorously and CA took NO money from government at all and Oxfam had a 10% cap on all institutional funding. Their independence of voice and the ability to challenge those in power, in UK and around the world was seen as central to their purpose. It feels a long way from the situation amny NGOs find themselves in today - receiving grants of multi million pounds  from a wide range of institutional donors, which carry heavy conditionalities and are increasingly in the form of centrally designed contracts, often with a single issue focus, clear short term targets and preset reporting criteria, developed far from the people involved on the ground.

NGOs have to change with the times and all organisations develop, adapt etc. But if the core focus around position and purpose in relation to power and the causes of inequality and injustice goes what indeed can NGOs offer that others cannot?

Tina

On 13 Jun 2012, at 22:56, Robert Dalziel wrote:

> Hi All
> 
> I agree with others that this is a fascinating and stimulating discussion
> 
> For me there is a question about the extent to which third sector organisations should or want to speak truth to power
> 
> Tis question is all the more pertinent at a time when here in the UK, across Europe and many other parts of the world we are witnessing the beginning of a very profound and disturbing reduction in education, health, and welfare services and support for different groups in society including the elderly, disabled, and the unemployed.
> 
> The effects of the global financial crisis and how it is impacting on those who are already disadvantaged will serve to further highlight concerns about the morality of political and economic systems that are pushing more and more people into poverty and widening the gap between the rich and the poor and how the third sector responds
> 
> As Chomsky has said 'Freedom without opportunity is the devil's gift'.
> 
> There is a real risk that initiatives like those set out in the Localism Bill and elswhere will in the end only serve to abrogate Government of its strategic responsibilities rresponsibilities in looking after the needy and force communities to make tough decisions in an arena where there are woefully inadequate resources and serious inequalities between those who can afford to pay for the services that they need and those who can't - and third sector organisations act at best as a sticking plaster and are unable to fill all of the gaps.
> 
> All the best
> 
> Rob
> 
> ________________________________
> From: VSSN [[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Ravinol Chambers [[log in to unmask]]
> Sent: 12 June 2012 21:29
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: Being forced to change business model because of funding
> 
> I like the approach of staying in touch with both (or all) tribes, that way one can try and see things as broadly as possible and see where the merits of each lies, as best you can.
> 
> Ravinol Chambers
> 
> 07949 639699
> www.beinspiredfilms.co.uk<http://www.beinspiredfilms.co.uk>              www.beinspiredconsulting.co.uk<http://www.beinspiredconsulting.co.uk>
> 
> twitter.com/beinspiredfilms<http://twitter.com/beinspiredfilms>              twitter.com/ravinol<http://twitter.com/ravinol>
> youtube.com/beinspiredfilms<http://youtube.com/beinspiredfilms>           uk.linkedin.com/in/ravchambers<http://uk.linkedin.com/in/ravchambers>
> facebook.com/beinspiredfilms<http://facebook.com/beinspiredfilms>
> 
> Our business depends on your referrals - this enables us to save on marketing costs and deliver great value at affordable prices to you.
> 
> If you know anyone who you feel would benefit from our services please let us know.
> 
> 
> 
> On 12 June 2012 21:01, Jon Griffith <[log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>> wrote:
> Consultants adopt liberating assumptions, academics adopt limiting ones.
> 
> It’s a theory…though also a rather extreme case of ‘splitting’ (like “four legs good, two legs bad”), which must itself be based on a kind of limiting assumption - aren’t there lots of exceptions? (and I suspect most people adopt some of both, whatever line of work they are in - much as we all have espoused theories, and theories-in-use.)
> 
> But if it’s true, the implications for the voluntary sector (and for any other client of consultants or academics) are probably (a) you get what you pay for; (b) you should stay in touch with both tribes, since you never know when you might need a good dose of reality-checking!
> 
> This reinforces the usefulness, and importance, of both types of question: organisations need, individually, to ask how they can/should operate differently when their funding changes; and, at the same time, it’s not unreasonable for wider community to ask if/how far organisations are being forced to change their models (business or otherwise) because of the funding changes they are individually faced with.
> 
> Jon
> 
> From: VSSN [mailto:[log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>] On Behalf Of Stephen Moreton
> Sent: 12 June 2012 08:34
> 
> To: [log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>
> Subject: Re: Being forced to change business model because of funding
> 
> Thanks for the feedback Jon – It highlights how important it is to get the questions right; and based on sound rationale.
> 
> So how does the ‘consultant approach’ to this topic below hold up?
> 
> If a consultant had been approached by a specific charity with the problem that they were “being forced to change business model, because of funding”, the consultant may well work with the client to develop incisive questioning, before progressing further.
> Referring to Nancy Kline’s work on Incisive Questioning<http://kline.advisorblogcentral.com/post/2008/05/Incisive-Questions.aspx> , the key task would be to identify the limiting assumptions and the liberating assumptions that lie within the question.
> 
> The question “Are charities being forced to change business model, because of funding” may well have the following ‘limiting assumptions’ (referring to others’ comments in this thread):
> 
> -          Charities are forced to do things
> 
> -          A business model means charities operate like private sector organisations.
> Corresponding ‘liberating assumptions’ could be:
> 
> -          Charities are able to shape their future
> 
> -          A business model describes the rationale<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Explanation> of how the charity creates, delivers, and captures value
> So a possible outcome of the consultant working with the client could be the question:
> “How can the charity shape their future in the light of changes in funding, and develop a rationale of how it can create, deliver, and capture value?”
> 
> So my queries are:
> 
> 1.       Is there a general trend that practicing consultants adopt liberating assumptions in their questions, and academic researchers adopt limiting ones?
> 
> 2.       If this is the case, what are the implications for the voluntary sector?
> S.
> 
> Stephen Moreton
> Head of Education & Development
> Tel: 020 7307 2579
> Mobile: 07967 010263
> Email: [log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>
> Web: www.attend.org.uk<http://www.attend.org.uk/>
> Online shop: www.buy.at/attend<http://www.buy.at/attend>
> 
> Attend, building healthy communities.
> 
> Attend is a charity registered with the Charity Commission for England & Wales No: 1113067 and in Scotland under no. SC039237 with a head office at Attend, 11-13 Cavendish Square, London, W1G 0AN. Registered Company no. 5713403.
> 
> This e-mail is confidential and may be privileged. It may be read, copied and used only by the intended recipient. If you have received it in error, please contact us immediately
> 
> From: VSSN [mailto:[log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>] On Behalf Of Jon Griffith
> Sent: 31 May 2012 18:42
> To: [log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>
> Subject: Re: Being forced to change business model because of funding
> 
> (This contribution is only for people interested in the use of rhetorical devices in public debates, and their relationship with logic!)
> 
> “Q1 (“Are charities being forced to change business model, because of funding”) appears to present a premise that such a change is inherently bad for the charity.”
> 
> Oh no it doesn’t!
> 
> It’s an empirical question, asking only what is the case: is x actually happening because of y?
> 
> There is no premise, except about the existence of things called charities, business models and funding, and the possibility of a relationship between them.
> 
> This can be proven by showing that the answer could equally well be:
> 
> 
> Yes they are, and this is good
> 
> Yes they are, and this bad
> 
> No they are not, and this is good
> 
> No they are not, and this is bad
> 
> “Q2 (“How do charities adapt to the changing funding environment and maintain their relevance and purpose in society”) appears to present a premise that change is the nature of the journey.”
> 
> It may present the alleged premise, but the alleged premise is a tautology: change is by definition “the nature of a journey” - otherwise it wouldn’t be a journey, it would be staying at home and watching the cricket; so no further conclusion can be drawn from its being found to be true.
> 
> If something already established as what it is (change) is then confirmed as what it is (a journey, which is by definition a kind of change), this can have very little implication for anything else, whether it’s how charities do this, that and the other, or the price of fish.
> 
> It’s true that “How do charities adapt…?” is a different type of question from “Are charities being forced…?”, but nothing in the difference between them makes one question more key than the other. They are both legitimate questions, worth asking. Neither outguns the other in theoretical or empirical terms.
> 
> Worse:
> 
> “it would appear that the answer to question 1 is essentially “Yes” if they are dragged kicking and screaming”; “No” if they recognise that change is part of the journey;  and “Sort of” if somewhere in-between…
> 
> is a mistaken conclusion.
> 
> Of course the answer to question 1 is “Yes” if they are dragged kicking and screaming - because the question is “Are they being forced?”. It’s another tautology.
> 
> And however much anyone recognises change as part of the journey, and however true this tautology is, it won’t make a scrap of difference to the answer to the empirical question about whether or not charities are being forced to do something.
> 
> They are either being forced, or they aren’t; this is not dependent on the recognition of the participants in the journey of the change-like nature of the journey they are on; their view of whether or not they are being forced will depend on their view of what constitutes being forced, and weighing up the evidence, but that is another matter.
> 
> None of this is a hanging offence, even on the VSSN list - I’ve been known to use rhetorical devices myself when the going gets tough. I’m just saying…
> 
> Jon
> 
> 
> 
> From: VSSN [mailto:[log in to unmask]]<mailto:[mailto:[log in to unmask]]> On Behalf Of Stephen Moreton
> Sent: 31 May 2012 10:35
> To: [log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>
> Subject: Re: Being forced to change business model because of funding
> 
> I acknowledge this might be a case of Visual v Auditory Digital representative systems…
> 
> NB I didn’t have people in mind representing the paint, but rather that the paint represents organisational activity and direction.
> 
> The objects moving in the bowl representing:
> -              Government policy
> -              Statutory services’ strategy and activity
> -              Sources of funding
> -              The need in the community
> -              Emerging innovation in meeting the need
> -              Community attitudes
> -              The employment market
> -              Activities of other relevant VCS organisations (established or emerging)
> 
> Essentially a mixture of PESTLE factors and those within Porters’ Five Forces model…
> 
> The analogy can certainly be used as a basis for suggesting that “the key question is not so much” x as y. That was what it was – a suggestion.
> However I would agree that a more robust argument is needed to uphold it.
> 
> So Q1 (“Are charities being forced to change business model, because of funding”) appears to present a premise that such a change is inherently bad for the charity.
> Conversely Q2 (“How do charities adapt to the changing funding environment and maintain their relevance and purpose in society”) appears to present a premise that change is the nature of the journey.
> 
> I recognise the questions can be viewed as representing different political/philosophical positions, and I suppose the key issue here is to work out why the charity exists in the first place.
> 
> An adage often attributed to the Institute of Fundraising states: ‘Charities exist because donors want a problem solved.’
> From this stance, it would appear that the answer to question 1 is essentially “Yes” if they are dragged kicking and screaming”; “No” if they recognise that change is part of the journey;  and “Sort of” if somewhere in-between…
> NB Being a bit of a closed question, it doesn’t give the respondent too much room for manoeuvre.
> 
> Maybe Q1 needs a supplementary question to allow the respondent to expand their thoughts.
> For example: “How does any subsequent change impact on the vision, mission and strategy of the charity?”
> 
> Stephen Moreton
> Head of Education & Development
> Tel: 020 7307 2579
> Mobile: 07967 010263
> Email: [log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>
> Web: www.attend.org.uk<http://www.attend.org.uk/>
> Online shop: www.buy.at/attend<http://www.buy.at/attend>
> 
> Attend, building healthy communities.
> 
> Attend is a charity registered with the Charity Commission for England & Wales No: 1113067 and in Scotland under no. SC039237 with a head office at Attend, 11-13 Cavendish Square, London, W1G 0AN. Registered Company no. 5713403.
> 
> This e-mail is confidential and may be privileged. It may be read, copied and used only by the intended recipient. If you have received it in error, please contact us immediately
> 
> From: VSSN [mailto:[log in to unmask]]<mailto:[mailto:[log in to unmask]]> On Behalf Of Jon Griffith
> Sent: 30 May 2012 14:25
> To: [log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>
> Subject: Re: Being forced to change business model because of funding
> 
> Yeah, but…
> 
> Paint is paint, and people are people, and the analogy doesn’t really work, except at the most abstract conceptual level, because the behaviour of people (inside or outside formal organisations) isn’t at all like the behaviour of paint molecules.
> 
> The analogy cannot therefore be used as a basis for suggesting that “the key question is not so much” x as y - it cannot bear the weight of this contention, and a better argument is needed to uphold it.
> 
> So, what other reasons are there for suggesting that the key question is not so much “Are charities being forced to…?” as “How do charities adapt to…?”.
> 
> If we leave the paint on one side to dry, what actual evidence is there that the second question is more ‘key’ than the first?
> 
> In the absence of any such evidence, I would hazard that both questions are potentially as ‘key’ as each other; that the difference between them lies not in any objective measure of analogy-derived keyness, only in what kind of question one is interested in asking (ie, it’s a matter of political preference); and that the paint analogy is a rhetorical device designed to persuade us of the superior merits of some kinds of questions over others.
> 
> Or, put more simply, both are ‘key’ questions.
> 
> Jon
> 
> 
> From: VSSN [mailto:[log in to unmask]]<mailto:[mailto:[log in to unmask]]> On Behalf Of Stephen Moreton
> Sent: 30 May 2012 08:35
> To: [log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>
> Subject: Being forced to change business model because of funding
> 
> A couple of points Ben makes move my thoughts to the following analogy:
> 
> 1.            “The VCS is perhaps defined (by its users) by the way it conducts itself”
> 
> This reminds me of the quote “I am who I am because of everyone” used by Orange RockCorps
> If this is applied to the VCS, then the VCS defines itself by its behaviours with a whole host of internal, external and associated stakeholders.
> 
> With the ever-changing nature of everything, this suggests the sector is always re-shaping itself –like a liquid substance fitting around a load of other objects that constantly move around in a bowl.
> 
> 2.            “A tension between what some people see as a distinct historical sector and one which is hybridising and changing.”
> 
> Some parts of the liquid are more viscous and some have more fluidity. The more viscous, the less desire and/or propensity to responding to all the other objects moving about.
> 
> So what does that make the sector in this analogy?
> Probably a bit like a just-opened tin of Humbrol Enamel paint. It has really fluid paint on top of a blob of viscous paint in the bottom of the tin. Pour a load of these un-stirred tins in a bowl of objects which move around, and the fluid paint will go all over the place, but not stick too well to the objects. The viscous paint will struggle to get around, but will stick more readily to the objects it touches.
> 
> Is the fluid paint forced to change direction in response to the moving objects? Essentially yes – this is one of the characteristics, which can be both a strength and a weakness depending what is to be achieved.
> Is the viscous paint forced to change direction in response to the moving objects? Yes, but less so – again both a strength and a weakness.
> 
> This analogy would suggest the key question is not so much “Are charities being forced to change business model because of funding”, but more around “How do charities adapt to the changing funding environment and maintain their relevance and purpose in society”
> 
> Or with the analogy “How is Humbrol Enamel paint kept in a usable state, and not ending up so thin or completely solid?”
> 
> Stephen Moreton
> Head of Education & Development
> Tel: 020 7307 2579
> Mobile: 07967 010263
> Email: [log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>
> Web: www.attend.org.uk<http://www.attend.org.uk/>
> Online shop: www.buy.at/attend<http://www.buy.at/attend>
> 
> Attend, building healthy communities.
> 
> Attend is a charity registered with the Charity Commission for England & Wales No: 1113067 and in Scotland under no. SC039237 with a head office at Attend, 11-13 Cavendish Square, London, W1G 0AN. Registered Company no. 5713403.
> 
> This e-mail is confidential and may be privileged. It may be read, copied and used only by the intended recipient. If you have received it in error, please contact us immediately
> 
> From: VSSN [mailto:[log in to unmask]]<mailto:[mailto:[log in to unmask]]> On Behalf Of Benjamin Kyneswood
> Sent: 29 May 2012 14:52
> To: [log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>
> Subject: Re: Being forced to change business model because of funding
> 
> What I have found interesting since I asked the initial question is how the debate has moved into one that highlights a conflict within situated political practices the sector engages in. There is clearly a tension between what some people see as a distinct historical sector and one which is hybridising and changing. As ever it will always be a mix of both, but, when the detail is turned over, who has been making the decisions and for whom?
> 
> The VCS is perhaps defined (by its users) by the way it conducts itself, which, in turn, is defined by the people doing the work, often volunteers. These are the people most affected by substantial changes, which, in turn, may affect the way the VCS is perceived. After all, being a user of a voluntary service, as a client or a volunteer for instance, may be as much a cultural decision as anything else.
> 
> Does anyone know of VCOs that canvass opinion from beneath the board when 'considering' changes?
> Ben
> 
> 
> Scanned for Spam and Viruses by Instanton.it<http://www.instanton.it> and Websense
> 
> 
> This message has been scanned by the UEL anti-spam filters hosted by Websense<http://www.websense.com/content/MessagingSecurity.aspx>
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