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The future of local infrastructure is in critical danger

How do you solve a problem like VCS infrastructure?  Today’s politically acceptable answer – so say the Lottery and the Cabinet Office – is a demand-led model of support for frontline groups.

Of course, we need to make infrastructure earn its money. We also need to make it worthwhile to work in good infrastructure organisations. We need great staff, paid a fair wage, who know what they’re doing and how to do it. We need organisations that are strategically connected and that can support and help document local innovation. We need organisations that, as Angela White of Sefton CVS says, know the “people, priorities and patch”; organisations that earn credibility by being rooted in their sector. We need organisations that can do the basics and then some.

Businesses need to work in closer collaboration with youth organisations

The Riots, Communities and Victims Panel Report which launched last month suggested that a perceived lack of support and opportunities for young people contributed to the outbreak of the riots last summer.

I believe that everyone in society has a responsibility to support young people and has a contribution to offer in providing opportunities for young people to realise their ambitions. Businesses are not exempt.

Young people have so much to offer our society and, indeed, our businesses. As digital natives, they hold the skills that will help our businesses grow. After all, 10 years ago, who would have predicted that future jobs would have included the social media strategist or the app developer?

As a business, the contribution to support young people needn’t be a daunting one. I am championing businesses to work in close collaboration with youth sector organisations, and imbed their support at the heart of their organisations.

At O2, we’ve been on our own journey. In 2009, stakeholder insight told us that we needed to make a difference with young people. As a powerful youthful brand, we felt we had more to offer, but we didn’t have the expertise to make our ambitions a reality. We therefore developed a partnership with the National Youth Agency and UK Youth, to enable young people to make a difference and develop important skills.  And so Think Big was born.

As we’ve seen first hand, there are many business benefits to be had through working with charities and voluntary organisations. The primary impact of course is the difference this makes to young people’s lives. But there are many business benefits too, such as staff motivation and development or a sense of giving something back to the local community – the benefits are tangible.

And I’d encourage other businesses to do the same. Last week I hosted a consultation to launch United Futures, a programme being led by Business in the Community, the National Children’s Bureau and UK Youth. The aim is to break down barriers between businesses and the youth sector and identify what support we can offer to help young people realise their potential. It’s about working together and using our collective clout for a common goal.

As a leading communications company in a digital world, we feel responsible for setting the agenda: to harness a digitally skilled workforce that is fit for the future. We’re just at the start of our journey, but by opening our doors to other businesses, the youth sector and young people, I genuinely believe we can build a lasting partnership that will make a difference.

Ronan Dunne is the chief executive of O2

Payment by results is fine, but the payment must be adequate

There is nothing wrong with the principle of payment by results.

It’s only fair to reward providers for their success, and it is right to direct funding into those areas and services that are having a positive impact. If you look at the government’s new policy of referring those released from prison straight onto the Work Programme, potentially this is a positive step.

Identifying ‘ChangeMakers’ will be critical to improving local areas and public services

Amid the furore surrounding last week’s Budget announcement, one figure in particular seemed to miss the attention it deserved. According to its independent analysis, the Institute for Fiscal Studies highlighted that only six per cent of the planned cuts to non-investment public service spending have been made to date. Given the scale of the public backlash to some of the cuts that have been ushered in so far, this appears to be an astonishing figure.

Let’s give the Charity Commission praise where it’s due

Everyone is talking about the fact that the Charity Commission has had to withdraw its guidance on public benefit. It is getting knocked by people who, like me, have said for a long time its guidance was wrong.

From small acorns…

At a time when councils, charities and other service providers have to make major cuts in the current austerity climate, increased community action could be a key part of maintaining services to the public. But how can communities first be engaged, and then mobilised, to get involved? The answer, it seems, could lie in focusing on the small acts that people are already carrying out and making it clear how every contribution adds up to a big difference.

Fundraisers should learn to lean on science

As a volunteer street fundraiser of the ‘fancy dress and bucket’ variety, I have spent hundreds of hours collecting cash donations from the public. Within the volunteer fundraising community, there is a lot of collective wisdom about how to raise the most money. However, the evidence to support these ideas is based on overall impressions and recalled experiences. How can we know what really works?

My background is in science, where there is a saying: “The plural of anecdote is not anecdata,” meaning scientists pay more attention to direct measurements than to second-hand stories.

Zeitgeist boosts the sector’s chances in the Budget

In recent weeks I have been to two excellent events where people tried to work out what they would like out of the Budget on 21 March. One, convened by NCVO, tended to focus around the paper they have recently produced arguing the case for a fairer tax treatment of social investment. The other was more from the philanthropy end where the tax treatment of ‘giving while living’ was the hottest topic.

Getting Felicity to Give More than Dorothy

Just months after the Philanthropy Review published its call to action, the Give More campaign launches, and not a moment too soon. The roller coaster ride, particularly for those charities struggling to meet increased demand with shrinking resources, seems never-ending.

Breaking the silos

Pears Foundation embarked on a different and counter-intuitive endeavour several years ago.

Venturing out of the traditional charitable sector where most of our work takes place, we partnered with three UK business schools – London, Said and Cranfield – in a joint effort to explore issues of responsible business and inspire future leaders to make a positive difference in society.