Organise it and they will come … Or will they?

Adam PickeringHaving trouble getting people from the voluntary and community sector to attend Compact related meetings and events? You are not alone. Perhaps now is the time to start thinking differently about how to reach a Compact audience.

In my role as Engagement Officer I like to ask Local Compact workers questions like ‘what’s new with the Compact in your area?’ or ‘is anything good happening with your Compact?’ Not the most probing questions I’ll grant you but the Parkinson technique usually gets people talking. But something about the recent trend in responses to these questions is troubling me.
The first thing people usually update me on will be obvious to anyone – council cuts to voluntary and community sector funding. The second most common theme often seems to follow the below:
“We are trying to get people to use the Compact to mitigate the impact of the cuts. We have planned events, trainings sessions and have persuaded senior figures from the council to attend Compact group meetings. However, it is proving difficult to get people from the sector to attend any of them.”
It’s an irony that just as the need for the Compact to be understood grows, its salience with the sector seems to be falling. Every time a sector representative says that they are too busy fire-fighting, fundraising or campaigning to think about the Compact, their words are echoed by the sound of a Compact worker’s hand clapping against their bowed forehead. Because not only is the Compact a vehicle for holding statutory funders to account for the processes used in making funding decisions – it is a way of working which can - and should be - plugged into all activities taking place when the two sectors meet.
I first started thinking about this when I attended a Third Sector Assembly in Warrington back in November. The event was broadly themed, with speakers including the Chair of the local LSP, the Assistant Director of Neighbourhoods & Culture at Warrington Borough Council and the Chief Executive of Warrington CVS. Standing at the front of a huge hall packed to the rafters with lively sector representatives talking about the Compact, I realised that this was a model that could be followed.
Maybe that’s the next stage for some Local Compacts – to move away from seeing the Compact as an entity separate from wider cross sector partnership bodies and activities. Compact Implementation groups were conceived in order to steer the embedding or ‘mainstreaming’ of Local Compacts. But it could be argued that after the initial implementation phase the best place to discuss the Compact might be defined as ‘wherever the two sectors are in the same room’. By taking the Compact to other partnership events and meetings it is possible not only reach a wider audience but also show that it is relevant to a range of partnership themes.
So if you are having difficulties in getting voluntary and community sector representatives to come to Compact meetings and events why not find out which meetings and events they are attending and take the Compact there?

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