The last year has been nothing short of tumultuous. It has shaken us all up—often in different ways. While one set of us have become very risk averse and reluctant to return to normal ways, whatever the government says, others intensely feel that they have lost something fundamental over this period—their freedom—and they are angry and eager to get back to normal and more.
For some, a crisis can bring positive benefits, in that it brings us together—the war spirit in peacetime if you like. Examples of this include: the clapping of the NHS workers; the new respect for delivery drivers and shop workers; and the fact that no one, whatever their circumstances, is completely insulated from catching covid.
However, in actuality, covid has further exposed the divides in our society. There have been major differences in suffering across class, geography, ethnicity, disability, age and gender, be that hospitalisations, deaths, income falls or job losses.
Discussing inequality and how to tackle it
At our upcoming annual conference in October, NPC Ignites, we are very lucky to be hearing from the man who has been trying to emphasise these differences, from way before covid hit, Professor Sir Michael Marmot. This social inequality is the reality that so many charities and charitable funders know about and work hard to do something about. At NPC, we have also been researching how charities can be welcomed into the government’s levelling up agenda, to help tackle social need across the country, and we look forward to discussing this further with Baroness Hilary Armstrong, Chair of the House of Lords Public Services Committee, at our conference. Social sector leaders like Ndidi Okezie, Chief Executive of UK Youth, and Paul Kissack, the relatively new head of that great poverty fighting organisation, The Joseph Rowntree Foundation, will also give us their views on inequality at NPC Ignites.
Coming hot on the heels of the Covid-19 crisis is the climate crisis, something that our attention is drawn to every day, through events such as the recent ultra-hot temperatures in Canada and the floods in Japan. Many charities care about this: both climate change and the steps governments take to address it could easily fall most heavily on the vulnerable. We need to avoid that and we are pleased to say that Kirsty McNeil from Save the Children and the Crack the Crisis campaign will reflect on this at our annual conference.
Learning lessons from the pandemic
Over the past 16 months, we have learnt that to have a bigger impact on fighting these inequalities, funders and philanthropists must change their ways. They need to move faster, collaborate more, and be less frightened of unrestricted, or core, funding. Some of this happened during the crisis, proving it’s not as impossible as we once feared. And, like all of us, they must too focus on whether they are working to tackle racial injustice. Encouragingly, new pots of funding are opening up. Yvonne Field from the Ubele Initiative, who will be speaking at NPC Ignites, has recently established a new £50m partnership with The National Lottery Community Fund, aimed at boosting funding and support to Black and minoritised community charities and grassroots groups over the next five years.
We know too that we need to be smarter about how we learn from and evaluate what we are doing. We must never give up the effort to work out if we are using our resources most efficiently, but we must add to this the lessons we have learnt during the pandemic, such as the benefits of conducting lighter touch evaluations and embracing developmental evaluation. We also learnt that we can use digital technology in many more ways than we did before. It most certainly doesn’t work for everyone, including some of the most vulnerable, but others definitely prefer it. Furthermore, we know how important it is to use data to target areas and people in need, particularly when needs are fast moving and changing, and our databank is our contribution to this effort. At our annual conference, Tom Adams, Co-founder of 60 Decibels; Tamsin Shuker, Senior Head of Evaluation at The National Lottery Community Fund; and Janine Woodward-Grant, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Carers’ Centre Bath and North East Somerset, will have plenty to say about all this.
Lastly, we have learnt how important it is that we have policymakers that understand our sector. We can still do our stuff without that—and have done—but from the local to the national level, it makes it much easier if policymakers, and those organising the delivery of groundwork with the sector, talk with us and get us. We look forward to discussing this with Clare Moriarty, newly into the Citizens Advice hot seat and pretty fresh from some senior posts in Whitehall, at NPC Ignites. We are also very pleased to have the Minister for Civil Society, Baroness Diana Barran, joining us to reflect on what she and the government have learnt over the course of the crisis.
Obviously, we also need the government to take the right course of action in terms of spending, benefit and tax policy if we are to address social inequality—we can’t push water that much up hill. Therefore, we are looking forward to our conference session on how to influence this government, where we will hear from Imran Hussain, Director of Policy and Campaigns at Action for Children.
If we take all these messages and build on them—as we have been doing through our Rethink, Rebuild project—we can start to tackle social inequalities. I hope that NPC Ignites will be one of the events that makes sure this happens. You can book your ticket to our 12-14 October annual conference here, and I look forward to seeing you there.