Time for a 3rd Sector stimulus package?

8 May 2012 by Karl Hallam


The election results in France, Greece and across Britain should perhaps be causing pause for thought about the cuts only approach to public policy that has held sway in the last couple of years. 

Charities have suffered cuts when demand for their services is growing. Could a 3rd Sector stimulus package be the way to go for the Coalition or indeed in the now Labour dominated Sheffield City Council.

In Sheffield this would support local organisations doing great work across the city, create jobs and demonstrate that the Council can be brave and innovative. Local councillors argued hard against the elected Mayor idea and got their way (though on such a low key campaign and turnout, maybe a hollow victory). Now is their chance to back up their claims that the current model offer strong leadership and vision with some proper policy initiatives that can help city begin to punch its weight again.

We supported the idea of a Mayor, as we thought it offered the opportunity for an indepepent figure to come through, who could lay out a vision that they had 4 years to deliver on. It could, for example, have been a sustainable ticket or even a 3rd Sector champion.

A Sheffield 3rd sector stimulus package could not only support existing charities facing making staff redundant and reducing services, but also help them compete to win contracts to deliver public services. That would be a win win for Sheffield's economy and people.

Our first Third Sector Cafe event on Trustees emphasised that charities do need help in finding thier way in the new world of contracts and commissioning, but that if they can win the work they can offer great value to the public purse.

Another point is that charities also suffer getting heard, which is why are next event in on communications and PR!


The Third Sector Café is hosted by Cadence Works, a Sheffield based consultancy. Working with public and third sector organisations we frequently find examples of good practice that could be of help to fellow third sector organisations – if only they knew about it. We want to make a positive contribution to the third sector in Sheffield with our Third Sector Café by making it easier to tap into sources of practical, affordable help.

Ideas for future topics are always welcome: if you are a Sheffield based third sector organisation please fill in our survey to let us know what you’d be interested in.

Looking forward to seeing you soon,





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Reply #1 on : Sat August 04, 2012, 21:18:53
Central government sohlud make policy and set the rules by which services are delivered. It is also very likely to deliver a large number of them (by virtue of trust, security or scale issues). I will not stray here into commentary on how it sohlud make policy that is more a matter of political style and judgement in my opinion.The mechanics of delivery will also be hugely complex, with public and private sector participation both playing significant roles. Again, there is no single, trite answer in a forum such as this to who does what'.I will however suggest a few tips: government needs to get better at assessing what can and cannot be achieve in practice using digital services. There is no end of theoretical modelling that will show us how x transaction can be reengineered in y ways to deliver z savings. But apply that theory to the reality of 60m citizens with an almost infinite variety of personal circumstances, motivations and behaviours and previous solid business cases start to crumble. It is extremely unlikely, in my view, that a mechanism can ever be constructed which will allow for single sign-on to a trusted relationship with lots of areas of government at the same time, such that meaningful and useful transactions can be carried out. The drawbacks and pitfalls scale much, much faster than the benefits. I can draw you a theoretical model of how a single identity and PIN could do the job, but I wouldn't be able to implement it (even accounting for the fact that much of what we understand about rights and privacy would have to fundamentally change to do so). But that is a much deeper debate than suits this comment box.Rather than barking up the same old trees, government needs to improve in other disciplines I'll offer two for consideration. 1. Smart service design whereby real-world cases, cutting across many departmental areas of responsibility, are used as a starting point for developing solutions. Strong leadership, to ensure that such smarter services can be pushed through to delivery, even where this means some flex in departmental ownership, or amendment to policy. And 2. Risk assessment simply replicating offline services online doesn't work. We know this. Much is changed simply by the act of providing a service in a remote, anonymous, scalable and rapid channel, such as the web. Reliance on old forms of friction', such as the filling in of complex forms, or the use of a physical signature, don't have the same meaning in a digital channel. Risks, of fraud or error, need to be wholly reevaluated in light of the digital channel.Directgov's flagship service, still after more than 5 years the car tax renewal, works so well because of decisions like this. There is no requirement to go through an elaborate identity-proving process every time you buy a tax disc. What's the worst that could happen, really? You might buy a disc for someone else? Wow. And the car itself is oblivious to the fact that its details are being shared across MOT, insurance and DVLA databases. It's a car. It doesn't care. It's because almost every other service is about a person that makes them so difficult, and the tax disc magic so hard to repeat. And although, generally, we need to be sure that someone is entitled to the services they claim and that appropriate data sharing safeguards are observed I still feel there is more that could be done in assessing service risk in a way appropriate to the channel being used.Full disclosure: as per Question 1.

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