The voluntary or community sector
There is no single definition of the voluntary or community sector. It is a generic term used to describe those organisations that focus on wider public benefit, as opposed to statutory service delivery (performed by central or local government for example) or profit (often delivered through the private sector but not exclusively so).
They can also be known by other terms:
- civil society
- the charity sector
- the shared society
- the third sector, and
- non-governmental organisations or NGO’s.
Voluntary sector organisations are diverse and range from small informal groups working in communities, to significant enterprises with multi-million pound incomes. Because of this, there is no reliable way of calculating the overall size of the sector.
However, there are 180,000 registered charities in England and Wales, a figure growing in number every year. It is estimated that the voluntary sector has an income in excess of £52 billion.
What is an infrastructure organisation and why is infrastructure important
The simplest way to explain infrastructure in the voluntary sector is by reference to a completely different subject. Our road network – roads take us on a journey from point A to point B, and any other points beyond. They enable us to gain information, and as we use them, thus we increase our knowledge of routes and places. Infrastucture in the voluntary sector does exactly the same. Organisations that form Support Cambridgeshire help community groups and organisations increase their knowledge and understanding. They take communities on journeys. They help to find solutions, and critically support the sector as a whole, ensuring influence. Influence is driven by voice and representation.
The value of voice and representation
Support Cambridgeshire partners:
- unite the sector, giving it influence and acknowledgement
- provide information in a readily accessible manner to increase knowledge and access to opportunity
- build capacity and network potential
- credibly represent the sector as trusted brokers
- facilitate collaboration and partnership between sectors
- attract grant giving for community organisations
- allow co-design and co-delivery on community initiatives, and
- form a lead group for community engagement across Cambridgeshire.
The context for voice and representation
As local authority and statutory funding reduces, demand increases. Any hope of reducing demand relies upon community interventions providing support and well-being at the very earliest stage. Community organisations will need support and information to strengthen and grow. They will also need to be linked to the planning and provision of local services in a more strategic way than ever before. Statutory services need a vehicle to make this happen.
Voice and representation ensures that both community groups and statutory organisations understand the challenges and opportunities faced by each other – by having a voice, and through being represented, Support Cambridgeshire partners will ensure the best possible outcomes for communities across Cambridgeshire. Championing the work of seldom-heard voluntary and community groups is important, as is ensuring that the views and expertise of the sector are heard and acknowledged by all. We conduct a State of the Sector Survey each year and responses prove the value of our work in giving the sector a voice.
Attendance at key strategic meetings throughout Cambridgeshire is a key component in ensuring effective voice and representation for communities and we will continue to be present at the tables where we are most required.
While these strategic meetings change in line with County and District wide priorities, they generally divide into 2 simple categories.
Representation includes County wide strategic influencing forums like the Learning and Skills Board, the Early Help Governance Board and the Health and Well-being Board.
Representation also takes place at local provider forums such as the Community Safety and the Living Well Partnerships. If you wish to represent the sector at one of these local provider forums and require more information please contact Julie Farrow on 01480 420601 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Strategic enabling takes place at forums with the Combined Authority, the CEO Network and the local Commissioning Forums. If you wish to be part of the CEO network then please contact Julie Farrow 0n 01480 420601 or at email@example.com.
For more information on these and any of the other meetings attended by support Cambridgeshire, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org