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NCVO announces initiative to address power and integrity issues in the sector

17 May 2022 News

A new initiative hosted by NCVO will aim to tackle organisational issues of power and integrity in the charity sector.

Power & Integrity (P&I), the first initiative of its kind, will enable organisations to use shared learning to understand how power structures can create negative organisational cultures and behaviours, including sexism, racism, and bullying. It will also support charities to develop approaches that incorporate integrity.

NCVO will host P&I for a period of 12 to 18 months, after which it is hoped the initiative will grow into its own independent non-profit organisation.

Power imbalances and lack of integrity

Acknowledging its own recent problems, Dan Francis, lead consultant at NCVO, said: “As an organisation which has experienced failings and challenges similar to the issues being examined, we are happy to be able to host the group’s work and share our learning with them. We hope to learn from their work too and we believe P&I will help support continued efforts for an equitable and inclusive NCVO and wider charity sector.”

NCVO argues that power and integrity issues have been at the heart of many of the failings seen in the sector in recent years. Despite more efforts to understand and tackle these issues, approaches have “often evolved in silos”.

NCVO said: “Safeguarding, anticorruption, and antibullying for example, are often managed by separate teams with siloed oversight. This doesn’t provide a full picture of the harm organisations can cause or the steps needed to improve.

“P&I will explore how voluntary organisations can adopt a holistic, coherent, systems-based approach that cuts across all areas of work. This includes exploring the role of boards, leadership, and governance, to enable power sensitive organisations.”

Piloting new power-sensitive approaches

P&I, which is run by eight independent experts, will work with up to five organisations to run “power labs” which involve workshops designed to help each participating organisation test new power-sensitive approaches and create practical conceptual frameworks.  

Participants will be selected through a “robust and open recruitment process”. 

P&I will also work with sector leaders to understand how best to enhance collaboration within the sector and maintain a common understanding of integrity practices. 

Inequalities in civil society

Alex Cole-Hamilton, project lead at P&I, said: “However good our intentions, non-profit organisations reflect society’s deep inequalities. For years, non-profits and others have analysed power to address societal inequalities. But we have failed to understand that inequality is reflected in our own organisations. By taking a holistic approach to understand and address how power manifests in our missions, strategies, culture and ways of working is, we can reduce harm and work with more integrity.”

P&I’s initial research showed that a whole system approach to integrity could “address pervasive forms of inequality and harm” in organisations but also lead to “strengthened oversight, strategy, and risk management”.

Cole-Hamilton commented: “Our journey will take time. Integrating power-sensitive practice requires continuous learning and diverse perspectives to develop shared understanding. By learning collectively, our aim is to establish a strong foundation for organisations to strengthen their integrity, and ultimately their impact. By sharing our learning openly, our hope is that the whole sector can benefit. We’re inviting organisations and individuals to be part of this pioneering work. We hope you join the journey to support our sector to achieve its goals with integrity.”  

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