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Our sector bursts with passion and potential and that is why we value it so much and why, at NPC, we always strive to help it become even better and more effective at creating good social outcomes for people. Our 2020 annual conference—NPC Ignites—is going to be very much about that.

But we are in times of change. The Covid-19 health crisis and the subsequent economic and oncoming unemployment crisis have forced that upon us. What’s more, we have the uncertainty caused by some form of Brexit facing us in only a few months’ time. Even the fact that this year’s NPC Ignites is taking place online and is spread over two days tells you that change is in the air.

Much of this change is disturbing and frightening. Funding for many charities and other social sector organisations has plummeted, just as need has mushroomed. Our own charity redundancies monitor shows that there has already been over 5,000 publicly announced job cuts from charities and we fear that this is only the tip of a much deeper iceberg.

Our sector has never been perfect and our State of the Sector project identified many problems troubling charity leaders, even before the Covid-19 crisis hit. At NPC Ignites, we will look at both longstanding issues and new issues that have emerged as a result of the outbreak of coronavirus.

But as we do, eventually, emerge from the Covid-19 crisis, we will need to rebuild and to do that we need to rethink how we operate. The status quo ex ante was not perfect; we have learned many good things through the necessity and urgency that this crisis forced upon us, and also as a result of movements like Black Lives Matter and Extinction Rebellion. We must take the time to think through what these changes mean for our sector.

Discussing innovation and adaptation

So, at NPC Ignites we will talk about how charities have adapted and delivered in recent months. We will ask what has worked and what has not, and how we can keep the good stuff and junk what is no longer fit for purpose. Our future of the sector session will be chaired by Delroy Corinaldi, an NPC Trustee, and speakers will include Baroness Diana Barran, Minister for Civil Society; Kate Lee, CEO, Alzheimer’s Society; Julian McCrae, Director, Engage Britain; and Cassie Robinson, Senior Head, UK Portfolio, The National Lottery Community Fund.

We will discuss the recent explosion in the use of data to guide decision-making and how we can all build on this into the future. You will find out more about this, and our Covid-19 data dashboard for charities and funders, in our session on open source data with Rosario Piazza, NPC’s Principal: Data. Plus, we will explore the huge increase in digital service delivery (something we will soon experience ourselves with our first fully digital NPC Ignites) and how to ensure your digital work is having an impact.

We will talk about funders and philanthropists, many of whom have shifted their behaviour in beneficial ways during the Covid-19 crisis. We especially want to focus on those who are now providing more core funding and those providing more funding to smaller or Black-led organisations and movements. Our future of philanthropy session will be chaired by Fran Perrin, an NPC Trustee, and speakers will include Sufina Ahmad, Director, John Ellerman Foundation; Delphine Moralis, Chief Executive, European Foundation Centre; and Paul Vallely, author of the new book Philanthropy: From Aristotle to Zuckerberg.

What’s more, we want to talk about the recent volunteer boom and how we can harness this newfound enthusiasm for giving up more of your free time. Plus, we will talk about the policy context, with a sparky panel chaired by Greg Hurst of The Times. We will ask, did Covid-19 reveal to the government just how important the sector is or reveal how the government doesn’t really understand or care about the sector, except when it’s delivering cheap volunteers?

Learning from this crisis

Finally, and perhaps most crucially, Covid-19 has held up a great big mirror to the massive social inequalities that beset our nation—be that of class, ethnicity, disability, income, geography or age. What can our sector now do to help keep this on the government’s agenda and what can we do ourselves to tackle this inequality? Christine Marriot, CEO, the Royal Society for Public Health; Jabeer Butt, CEO, Race Equality Foundation; and Steve Douglas, CEO, St Mungo’s, will be amongst those joining us at NPC Ignites to debate this issue.

Crises are difficult for everyone, but we owe it to all those who are suffering to learn as much as we can from them. We hope that this year’s NPC Ignites will contribute to that objective. We look forward to seeing you all at our conference.

Click here to book your tickets for NPC Ignites, 14-15 October 2020. You can find the full conference programme here. Get all the latest updates and join the discussion on Twitter via @NPCthinks and #NPCIgnites.

Covid-19 has held up a great big mirror to the massive social inequalities that beset our nation. At #NPCIgnites, we will discuss how charities can tackle them. @DanRCorry's new blog on where the sector goes next: Click To Tweet

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