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'Stop accepting damaging public policy'

12 Oct 2017 News

Fiona Weir, chief executive, JRRT

The charity sector needs to redefine itself and focus its resources better, the chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust said yesterday. 

Fiona Weir was speaking at NPC Ignites yesterday, when she said that the sector has been “on the back foot” for too long and that charities need to “redefine ourselves as agents of change”. 

She said that there is too much focus on the sector’s share of contracts “rather than making sure contracts work well” and called on charities to recognise that most long lasting change actually comes from campaigning activity. 

“Big change comes from the refusal to accept damaging public policy,” she said. 

Weir said that when she reflected on her eight and a half years at single parents’ charity Gingerbread it was the campaigning work that led to “lasting impact” in a way that was came out of the “quite disproportionate to the resource that we put into that”. 

She also one of the things that was “most valued” by beneficiaries who described it as having “someone in our corner”. 

‘Too easily chilled’ 

Weir said charities were too easily put off campaigning. 

She said it is “disappointing it is when funders don’t support advocacy” but that charities are “Far too ready to allow chilling of campaigning”. 

She urged the audience to read the Charity Commission’s case studies about which charities had breached charity campaigning rules during the last election. 

“There is no excuses for a well-run charity to be shy,” she said. 

She said it was the sector’s “duty” to campaign and that charities should “stop squandering our USP” which is that they are “grounded in the community and connected to daily experience” so they see how policies are, or are not, working. 

“Post Brexit we need to get organised, get campaigning,” she said. “Both nationally and locally we need to play our role giving real voice to thethat we people we work with”.
 

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