It is very hard to see 2019 as being a year that is likely to be full of promise and hope, even for a congenital optimist like myself. Maybe if you are a hard Brexiter—of either right or left—you might hope that you can sweep away the supposed sclerosis of recent decades and build a new Jerusalem amongst the ruins. In that case you may see 2019 as potentially a very good year. But most of us find more reasons to worry than to be excited.
It will undoubtedly be a year of uncertainty. It is unclear what will happen between Britain and the EU; we have the very real possibility of global trade wars and economic slowdown; political fighting across and within UK political parties, maybe with a change of Prime Minister; and we will probably face further bursts of erratic behaviour from an increasing number of populist and nationalist governments across the world.
As individuals and citizens, we will all play our part. As charities and funders, we will undoubtedly be involved, within the constraints that charitable status brings. NPC will certainly continue to highlight the way that these issues may affect our sector and its beneficiaries, and help authorities, charities and funders understand what they can do to help.
But as charities it is important that we keep focused on those aspects of our mission which don’t depend on the political climate.
We know from our work with charities that getting the basics right, having a strategy that links closely to your mission, and gaining some assessment of what is working or not is crucial for a successful social sector organisation. We also know that for many charities under pressure to deliver, these foundational steps are hard to take. We look forward to continuing our work with individual charities on this; updating and simplifying our publicly available offerings to smaller charities; and putting in training on topics like theory of change and improving your impact practice.
In 2019 we also want to support charities and funders with more advanced thinking.
Many in the sector know they need to do more to be responsive to their beneficiaries. We will be following up our work on user voice and involvement with seminars open to all and hope to work on this in in particular sectors.
Measuring and using data properly is vital to improve the impact that we can all achieve, and we will continue our work to help of we are continuing to work on three long term initiatives to help the sector understand the impact they are making. One focuses on youth, another loneliness as part of the DCMS’s Building Connections Fund, and Inspiring Impact covers the whole sector.
I am particularly looking forward to accelerating our work on Place and the way that civil society organisations can play a role. Following our recent pledge, signed by many key sector players, we want to see what it means for the statutory and voluntary sector to really make this Place focus work and so help transform the lives of people in an area.
NPC has long felt that the sector is not embracing digital as fast as it should, a view borne out by conversations with charity leaders in our State of the Sector work. We plan to do the second stage of State of the Sector this year, taking the pulse of our industry and seeing where innovative work is going on.
In addition, we’re putting our money where our mouth is with My Best Life, an ongoing project looking at the journeys that young people experiencing multiple disadvantages take through services intended to support them, and whether digital solutions might help them navigate better. Having secured the first slice of funding to get on with this, we will be looking to develop the idea in the youth sector and see how it might apply in other areas.
Finally, this year we intend to focus on a number of areas where we think the charity and philanthropic sector can add greatly to existing state activity.
One is the scourge of homelessness where we hope to raise a joint fund to take forward some of the solutions we have proposed in our recent report.
Another is criminal justice, where we have been looking at how the sector can work with prisoners to reduce reoffending and what barriers stand in the way. Several outputs from that work will be out soon.
And on health, now that we have the NHS 10-year plan, we will continue to challenge the government to make good on its commitment to addressing the social determinants of health.
As ever at NPC, we will aim to support the sector in all the good work it does and at the same time, challenge it to be better. We want the passion and effort we see in charities and funders to produce as much social good as it can and we will continue to call it out when this not happening.
Much may change in 2019 but I can promise you, our determination to improve the sector will not.