The Covid-19 pandemic has been grim for so many people, especially for people who are vulnerable, on lower incomes, or in jobs that cannot be done from home. The impact has been especially hard for ethnic minority groups and for people living in more deprived areas of the country.
These are the people that charities, community groups and social enterprises seek to help. But they too have suffered as needs have risen whilst funding falls, especially from public fundraising events, shops and enterprise activities (like training or cafes).
When the challenge feels overwhelming, the best we can do is to be determined that we will come out of this a better sector than before. However inspiring, let’s not hide from the uncomfortable fact that even before Covid our sector left a lot to be desired. It’s not an attack to say that we all know that not everything was perfect. We all knew of charities and funders who with some changes could have made a far bigger social impact. For all the fine examples of brilliant practice, we knew of places where this was not happening.
We also know that it is hard for many people involved in running or working in charities to find time to reflect on what we have learned both before and during Covid and how we can turn the best of what we’ve learned into standard practice. That is part of our mission at NPC, to work alongside thinkers inside and outside the sector to develop ideas for improvement that charities, funders and government alike can adopt.
Our Rethink Rebuild initiative is about exactly this. We know things are tough, but we also know the social sector has an enormous desire to think and to learn and to go again. There are many initiatives already looking at aspects of this, like the Collaborative Funders Hub run by ACF. There are also important moves to address many of the issues revealed by the Black Lives Matter movement about how the sector plays its part in the fight for racial justice. Our thinking will complement all of this, by focusing not only on ideas that can transform the social sector, but that are also practical here and now.
The ideas we’re putting forward come from our perspective, to start conversations, and we don’t pretend they’re more than that at this point. But these are ideas that we believe have the potential to make a significant impact on inequalities, structural injustices, and power dynamics.
We’ll be looking at:
- How we use data to help guide our decision making, adding to the mechanisms we already have, including a much stronger emphasis on user and lived experience.
- Collaboration among funders, among charities, and between charities and the public sector within a place.
- A new way of think about philanthropy and grant-making to make it more effective, that we are calling Open Philanthropy.
- New ideas on strategy for charities and funders to help them take a whole-system approach.
- New thoughts on how the sector influences policy at all levels, how to change the way policy makers see and interact with the sector, and how to put the inequalities that covid has exposed at the top of the political agenda.
We are not publishing a report full of the answers. If only life were so easy! Instead, we are kickstarting the thinking to provoke new ideas. We want anyone who is interested to get involved. We’re starting by publishing ideas on NPC Labs, our open innovation hub, and we’ll be asking people to comment on there as well as in workshops and other NPC events. We’ll keep you updated with how the ideas are developing as we go along.
2021 could be a turning point. We can just hope we all go back to where we were, or we can decide that we want to create a more resilient, more equitable, more progressive future for our sector, our economy, and our society. Standing still has never been the way for those who work, give and volunteer in the charity sector. We cannot allow the temptation to go back to the old normal to overcome us at this crucial time.