On January 29th 2014, we hosted a seminar for the community and voluntary sector to consider the implications of new research "Are we paying for that?" - Government Funding & Social Justice Advocacy. Following a presentation by the researcher Brian Harvey and response from Senan Turnbull, a retired public servant and volunteer, participants were asked 'What (if anything) do we need to do together?' to address the issues raised in the report. Below are the responses. Please feel free to respond or add your own thoughts in the comments section below.
* Essential training for the civil service on advocates, causes of disadvantage, sensitivity to poverty.
* Whistle blowing of the corruption and non-democratic approach to how services are run from the bottom to the top, and inclusive approach to services.
* Look at strategic alliances across the sector and reinforce the national forum of Family Resource Centres, 106 centers with a legitimate remit to carry out policy work at a local, regional and national level (interesting to see if this will remain in Tusla).
* Use the research to bring the C&V sector together to work more effectively with each other and state agencies.
* A concerted campaign by the sector to highlight the value of advocacy to policy-makers and society. To explain why advocacy is something to value and encourage, not suppress and fear.
* Do we have any solution to offer as a collective? Can we demonstrate the values of advocacy?
* Build understanding between the C&V and the government departments, starting with this report.
* McCarthy Report --------[
* Build trust between organisations in the C&V sector. Focus on the positive, what would we like? How could we work in partnership? Where is the halfway mark? Forum (quarterly) within the C&V sector for organisation to meet up and discus how to move forward. Gather opinions from all organisations and their specific viewpoints on this, prior to set up.
* More discussion, more information, excellent report. Clear objectives for going forward as a united voice.
* Initiative within The Advocacy Initiative to bring the report forward and to build alliance. Similar to the “shadow employer"; but with staying power.
* One simple step. Keep examples coming in to show and keep the state transparent, update every two years.
* Trying to change the state is too difficult. Concentrate on change within the C&V sector.
* Try to get a legislative base to have realistic timeliness for consultations (on legislation and policy). Commitment to principle of refection and analysis and document this. Publish.
* We need the discussion to continue!! Bring it back to what advocacy is supposed to be about, we unfortunately have become part of the game, we need the funding and are afraid to question it.
* Work together to present our work/impacts/importance to the public to counter the negative views put forward by the state. Work to change the structure/relationship between C&V and the state, try to make it less hostile a from our side, invite statutory bodies to events, to be part of research, part of roundtable discussions.
* Collaborate on facilitating our service user to advocate for themselves.
* Everything! Advocate issues form the ground up. Changing funding structure to be less competitive, capitalist.
* We need to recognize we are all on the gravy train. Part of the ‘system nature of transactional corruption. Hard to see how to stay on the train and survive whilst challenging the fundamental system. Maybe we need a very focused specific campaign around a core change that affects everyone (e.g. amendment to part 2.8). We need to keep talking.
* Agree with (research) recommendations regarding the way forward. The future for allocation of funding lies in the application of criteria, strenuously implemented. Excellent paper, congratulations Brian.
* Open a debate on citizenship and the role of civil society. Develop policy frameworks at departmental level which training. Have clear guidelines and criteria for administrating funding to NGOs.
* Change democracy to be more opening, inclusive, accountable, and participative. Join Claiming our Future.
* Raise awareness about what makes good policy: feedback, openness, dialogue, research, advocacy, debate, accountability etc.
* Challenging given the broad church the C&V sector is: AI needs to find a good home for the report.
* Lobby as a group to change the working of the SLA 2.8 agreement.
* A greater emphasis on collective action and togetherness for support to move forward.
* National representative forum to take this document forward, despite our fundamental differences in outlook.
* Pursue the idea of an Irish equivalent of the “Penny Wong amendment’ that would eliminate fear amount service providers seeking to advocate.
* Advocate that the Charity’s regulator office include people with experience from the sector.
* Capacity building for advocate at a local level, example of good practice. Educate policy makers.TDs need to get away from the mindset that it is their money to spend. If an organisation is critical of a government policy they should have the right to express this, right to critical discourse.
* Get established a specific committee to work with the government, on the advocacy issues.
* Go back to the White Paper, take strong of community sector funding, force partnership to take a lie on advocacy and challenging policy.
* Develop a confident radical and organised voice for working in the sector together with civil society and particularly trade union.
* Challenge one another, peer pressure for radical social change.
* More! Build a radicalized community sector with political and economic understanding.
* Challenge the government with our work and do it collectively also. Initiatives like this are important to bring us all together. We need to professionalize the community and voluntary sector and not be reliant on CE and volunteer workings if we can.
* A process leading to a new white paper.
* At basic level ensure good relationship with local funders to ensure that organisation are allowed to operate in the realm of advocacy. Challenge local funders with regard to this. All C&Vs to sign up and comply with the governance code. Come together under a coalition to lobby and challenge government departments.
* Disarm their skepticism, “they are all as bad as each other” Only 14 out of 8500 charities have adopted: Statement of guiding principles in fundraising, the governance code, Dochas code for use of images, publish their CEP salary, publish their accounts (not necessarily SORP just publish them).
* Thank you for this important body of work. It has been interesting to listen to the theoretical frameworks. Social advocacy organisation need to do more collectively to connect with and give a voice to all of their stakeholders. If the state believes it is the dominant or indeed the only stakeholder it will continue to operate according to its agency (i.e. rather than stakeholder) definition of accountability. My second observation would be that it is always hard to fight with City Hall. The state is in practice a virtual monopoly purchaser of public goods and services. Challenging monopoly will always require a highly articulated shared self-interest and collective discipline, qualities the sector has not manifested.