Well we didn’t plan it to be so, but our annual conference this year on October 10 will be only 21 days away from the putative date for us to leave the EU, probably with no deal. People in charity land may well be pretty anxious and stressed by then, whichever side of the debate they are on.

So, if it’s not too glib, we hope the terrific line up of people we’ve got at the conference takes their minds to a happier, perhaps even more productive place than thinking about Brexit. Disclaimer: we will probably be thinking about Brexit quite a lot, but we will also discuss the state of our sector, the challenges it faces, the exciting agendas that it is starting to embrace, the particular ways leaders are trying to move forward even in these uncertain times.

Many of the issues that the new NPC strategy has focused on will be picked up in the conference. We are strong believers that some of the thinking around system change, user voice, Place and digital will be transformational for all parts of our sector and we need to get them motoring. We have sessions on each of these with speakers ranging from Rachel Rank of the innovative 360giving, Alison Page of Salford CVS, Vicki Cardwell of user focused charity Revolving Doors, Jill Baker from the Lloyds Bank Foundation, Jack Hopkins, Leader of Lambeth Council, and our very own digital experts Tris Lumley and Alex Green.

In times like this the need for a strong civil society is ever more important. In my contribution to the conference I shall be returning to the theme of the geographic distribution and strength of civil society to keep this idea on the map. We are also delighted to see new leadership at NCVO, a key organisation for the sector and new CEO Karl Wilding will be fielding questions on what needs to be done and how he and NCVO are going to play their part. This will be much easier if they have a strong regulator and, in the same session Charity Commission chief executive Helen Stephenson will be with us to reflect on this role. Chaired by Greg Hurst of The Times, this ‘question time’ style session promises to be fascinating and I’m looking forward to seeing what questions the audience throws at our panel.

The sector has rightly, belatedly turned its attention to the issue of diversity and inclusion and following up on our own work in this area, we have a panel of Fatima Iftikhar from #CharitySoWhite, Asif Afridi, of Brap and Rob Berkeley from BlackOut UK to chew over where we are and what needs to be done.

And learning from those doing new or tricky things is a key part of our conference. Mike Adamson, will reflect on his work as CEO at British Red Cross, while Javed Khan of Barnados and Michelle Mitchell boss of Cancer Research UK will discuss the challenges they and their organisations have faced. From the funder perspective, we will hear from Fozia Irfan, Chief Executive of the Bedfordshire and Luton Community Foundation, also speaking will be Amelia Smith of Buttle UK.

It’s a fine day in prospect that should leave those attending buzzing with ideas and—we hope—optimism. For one thing is certain: the charity sector tends to rise to challenges not run away from them.

There’s still time to get tickets for the conference on Thursday the 10th of October. Buy them here. 

 

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