Putting Partnerships in Perspective

Panel debate at the 2012 Compact Week conference2012’s Compact Week is drawing to a close, and I think we can all confidently say it’s been a success.

The team has been involved with addressing council members in Merton, promoting the Compact to new audiences in Stockton, speaking at an awards ceremony in Gloucestershire (brilliantly called the Gloscars) and contributing to activities in a number of different government departments, including the Department for Transport, Ministry of Justice, and Home Office.

These are just some of the activities we’ve been involved with, and there have been lots of others taking place across England. To say that we’ve been busy is somewhat of an understatement, and there is a sense of contented fatigue in the team as we all reflect on a job well done.

One of the highlights of Compact Week has been hosting our conference and annual award ceremony. Nearly a hundred people from across different sectors gathered together to share information and network, teach and learn, and the feedback we have received so far is that it was an event worth attending.

We opened with a panel debate, which considered the role of central government in the age of localism. Don Foster, Minister at the Department for Communities and Local Government, spoke enthusiastically about the work that we have undertaken to understand how government is implementing the Compact, referring to our recent report on the Freedom of Information requests we issued to government. He stated that they would work to take on board its recommendations, and act as a champion across any other government departments that aren’t doing as well.

Chris White MP, author of the Social Value Act, talked about the importance of the voluntary sector in delivering services, stating that the threshold which applied to the Act was a compromise needed to get it passed, but he hoped its spirit would be more widely used.

Sue Beer and Jane Vass offered powerful illustrations of the impact of localism, challenging their colleagues on the panel with the reality of what was happening on the ground.

After a series of workshops, we closed with a somewhat contentious speech by Kevin Curley, former Chief Executive of NAVCA, who spoke of the continued importance of the Compact amongst an increasing array of tools which the sector should use to help challenge bad partnership practice. It’s a shame Curley didn’t reflect on the work that Compact Voice has undertaken to influence the development of many of these and other tools, ensuring that the Compact is embedded alongside them.

While it’s true that not every area has had as much success using their Compact as we would like (and are working to address), we know that those who have used it well have a much more positive view of its impact than he suggested. Still, we had asked him to be challenging, and he was.

While Curley chose not to include many examples of excellence in Compact working in his speech, they were certainly demonstrated at the Compact Awards ceremony, which was held later the same evening.

The winners (in fact, all of the shortlisted entries) brought together powerful examples of Compact successes across the country. Nick Hurd, Minister for Civil Society closed proceedings with an address which included describing Compact Voice as ‘a brilliant pain the arse for government,’ a depiction which we all felt proud of.

I think it’s safe to say that the Compact Voice team feel enthused by how well it all went, and it validated that our collective efforts across the country and the sectors can culminate in such a brilliant set of activities.
I’m really looking forward to next year’s Compact Week, and know that it will be just as good, if not better.

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