Looking back on 2018

By Leanne Bennett 19 December 2018 4 minute read

As 2018 draws to a close, it’s the perfect time to take a step back and reflect on the year.

We have continued to work towards our mission of influencing and transforming the charity sector, and, like the rest of the sector have had to take the rough with the smooth.

2018 has been anything but quiet

…with the political and economic uncertainty of Brexit consuming current discourse. In response we have been working with the Transition Advice Fund, a pooled fund to ensure those people who are eligible for settled status—particularly those who are vulnerable—have the support to do so.

We also held an event on whether the sector is really ready for Brexit.

The year kicked off to uncomfortable headlines for the charity sector

The unacceptable behaviour revealed at the men-only President’s Club annual fundraiser in January fuelled conversations around trust and echoed the wider #MeToo movement.

Whilst an extreme example, we called for charities and funders to take this as a serious prompt to ensure their houses were in order.

Important debates about diversity and representation dominated

This issue shaped the year, and not just for Hollywood. The charity sector has its own diversity problem, and bodies including ACEVO and NCVO are launching work on this issue.

Our own contributions looked at why this generally progressive sector has made little actual progress in this area. We also hosted a debate, with valuable insights from speakers and audience members alike.

With plenty still to do, expect more on this in the coming year.

…as did those about power and user involvement

Many in the sector—NPC included—have been energised by discussions about user experience and involvement. And it’s right that charities ask themselves whether their work helps people have power over their own lives.

This year, we researched best practice in involvement, and launched a paper on the topic. It argues for a greater focus on what user involvement aims to achieve.

We also took a user experience approach for our recent exploration of how digital technology could transform charities’ work. My best life: Priorities for digital technology in the youth sector was the result of this, and we also shared findings from our experience.

The public sector funding crisis has continued

…with more and more money being squeezed and charities left to prop up services. We believe now is the time for a fundamental rethink of how the voluntary sector has a role within specific places, including how it interacts with local public services. So we are pushing for a place-based approach as a way of moving forward.

Place was just one of the 21 detailed suggestions we submitted to DCMS civil society strategy.

We also shared findings from our evaluation of a place-based approach to health in Somerset—part of our ongoing work on the role of charities and the health sector.

And we’ve since launched a joint commitment with other sector bodies to use place as a more fundamental building block for social change.

Austerity took its toll in many areas, including homelessness and criminal justice

You won’t have failed to notice—either in the media or on streets—the overwhelming rise in homelessness. Reports suggest a 169% rise since 2010. Our research into this space focuses on the structural causes of this issue, and looks at how funders and philanthropists should fund systemically to tackle the root cause and end the crisis.

With prison riots in the early half of the year, our work to explore the contribution charities make in the criminal justice system becomes ever more urgent. We’ll be sharing more on this in early 2019.

Big challenges have called for big ambition

With complex social issues at the heart of what many charities are trying to tackle, working towards systemic change has become the issue of the day for some. Our work with Lankelly Chase aims to provide practical guidance on how a range of charities, funders and practitioners could use systems change thinking to deal with the root causes of social problems.

Meanwhile, disruptive impact investors like the Kleissners have worked to make the financial systems that define much of our work better for people and planet. We looked at the impact of their investments, and provided tools for others trying to get clarity about the social ‘impact’ in impact investing.

And with money short and needs changing, for some organisations a merger—or other forms of collaboration—has been the best way to ensure impact for beneficiaries. Our research attempted to dispel the myth that mergers are a consequence of failure and instead encourage leaders to see them as a tool for impact.

Undoubtedly, we as a sector are best when we face these challenges with fierce responsibility—with energy and determination. And we’ve seen a great deal of that this year, both with our work with clients and at the sector level. We hope you have restful holidays, and come back refreshed for what 2019 holds.

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