Charities need a new independent agency to drive up standards that could “go beyond rallying cries for better behaviours”, the chief executive of charity think tank New Philanthropy Capital has said.
NPC’s chief executive, Dan Corry, has written a paper which argues that civil society needs to take responsibility for its own improvement. He said that a civil society improvement agency (CSI) could be the ideal vehicle to drive change and that the ideas expressed in the paper “are intended both to provoke and stimulate a debate”.
Corry said: “We think that a strong, effective civil society is crucial for a decent and prosperous society. The success of the charity sector matters ever more now given the issues austerity has created and the divisions Brexit has exposed.”
Action must include ‘more than warm words’
The paper reads: “There is a strong case for the establishment of a new, independent (but sector-led) body that will support improvement and share best practice.”
The CSI “would share and promote best practice to help improve the effectiveness of the sector” through analysing data to identify issues and improving public trust.
This might be achieved by providing training courses for the sector, as well as “convening peer networks, focusing on improvement and ensuring that it did not duplicate but built upon what others in the sector are doing already.”
The think tank said it does not want “some kind of top down target or inspection-driven approach”, but action must be “more than warm words” and should “go beyond rallying cries for better behaviours”.
Funding and governance
The new agency would need to work alongside existing sector bodies and the Charity Commission, but be independent of them.
Corry's paper says CSI should not draw government funding away from the Commission, but points out that it would certainly need funding.
The paper suggests it could be financed by some direct government funding and grants, as well as through the sector, or it could be self-funded outside of any statutory source so that it is completely independent.
In terms of governance, the paper proposes that the majority of a CSI board should consist of representatives from the charity sector itself, although there may be a role for independents and co-optees as well.
NPC suggests that there should be representation from umbrella bodies like NCVO, ACEVO or CFG.
It said: “Some may feel we don’t need a new agency, but we think there is power in a non-membership body that can spread learning across the sector and the UK. We would be very happy to see the key sector bodies embracing this agenda and we invite incoming NCVO boss Karl Wilding, to take up some of these ideas.”
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