"Can I just ask..."

cathThis is often followed by ‘I know this may sound daft but...’ To which my reply is ‘no question is daft if the answer clears up any doubt’.

As an Engagement Development Officer at Compact Voice, my role and that of my colleagues Monika and Hilary is to support local areas to redraft or refresh their local Compact - or to help local areas to implement them better.

But how can they do that if they are not fully aware of what the Compact is, and what its benefits are?

Therefore, we always encourage people to ask us any questions they might have, no matter what they are, to help them gain a clearer understanding.

Monika, Hilary and I attend many events throughout the year to give speeches or presentations, run workshops or have information stands.

It has become clear that a lot of the questions we are asked are the same and the answers are just as relevant whether you are in the North, South, East or West.

One of the most common questions I get asked at this time of year is ‘will the Compact stop my funding from being cut?’.

The simple answer is no. However, the Compact does outline agreed good practice for both sectors when entering into or concluding a financial relationship. In knowing these commitments, you can ensure any decision made is a fair one and that you are fully involved in the mutually agreed process.

We always say that the Compact is most effective when used at the beginning of relationships – it’s not just a tool to get out and use when things go wrong. It can be the foundation on which good cross-sector relationships are based.

Another misconception is that the Compact is only about volunteering. Surprisingly or not, we most often hear this from people working in the public sector.

For example - at an event where I had an information stand, somebody came up to me and said ‘I do some voluntary work at weekends - do I need to know about the Compact?’ This wasn’t a daft question, because that person went away with a clearer understanding of how they could use the Compact in their day to day job as well as being a volunteer.

The key is that the Compact is relevant and useful for both sectors. It’s not just a tool for the voluntary sector, it can help people in the public sector to do their job better- especially when commissioning or procuring services from the voluntary sector.

I was also asked by one local authority why they should sign up to a Compact when they are already working in a Compact compliant way and their relationship with the voluntary sector was a good one. Why should they fix something that is not broken?

Well - it’s not about fixing something, it’s about strengthening it.

There is nothing to be scared of. The Compact is a way of doing things the right way and committing to continue to do so. Things might be working well now, but how can you be sure that’s always the case?

Signing up to and using the Compact is about standing behind something that has a clearly defined role and a recognised purpose, which is supported across the country and by central government. It represents standing behind something that has brand recognition, and goes beyond being just a list of activities – it has a sense of spirit and an approach to working in partnership which people can understand and respond to without ever needing to read a case study or action plan.

We also get asked ‘Is the Compact still relevant?’ To which I would answer yes! More now than ever: especially during these times of austerity and funding cuts.

At a time when VCS organisations are increasingly being relied upon to deliver public services, the Compact can help to ensure a level playing field, encourage open and honest dialogue across sectors and establish a foundation for these relationships that ensures both sectors are treated fairly.

These are just a few of the questions I’ve been asked recently. This blog could easily turn into an endless list of questions - but my point is, we want you to ask questions, if in doubt: ask.

We also want to include your questions in the ‘Compact Voice says’ section on our website, in case other people are thinking the same thing.

Over the coming weeks we will be updating this section with your questions - so no matter how daft or irrelevant you think a question may be, just ask! That is what we are here for.

Get in touch with any Compact questions via compact@compactvoice.org.uk

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