A window of opportunity

Before starting at Cumbria CVS just four short weeks ago, I took it upon myself to draw up a “transition plan” – a rather grandiose title for a simple one-page note, setting out what I needed to understand, who might be able to help me and what ideas I might be able to assemble in my first 100 days, in order to pick things up as quickly as possible and begin to frame my ideas.  It’s been going well to date – and whilst I wish it was due to my own hard graft, I cannot take the credit.  Everyone I have spoken to over my first month has been welcoming, positive and engaged.

Colleagues across the county, including those from member organisations and voluntary infrastructure agencies, have persevered through some challenging times, yet they still bring a smile and a can-do attitude to work with them. They are always looking to improve, keen to help, willing to try new things, happy to share ideas and knowledge, offer feedback and mutual support.  But I think the biggest surprise for me has been the thoughtful, insightful and strategic discussions I have already had with public sector organisations -NHS trusts, Clinical Commissioning Groups, City and County Councils to name a few -all looking for a stronger, more purposeful relationship with the voluntary sector.

I welcome this engagement as it has a clear focus and challenge, but is constructive and offers a window of opportunity to all of us in the voluntary sector.  Of course, it would be easy to be cynical and suggest that the partnerships available are arriving as public sector agencies suffer the most swingeing of cuts and need the capacity and skills of the voluntary sector to continue…  But the sentiment I have heard – and choose to believe – is that the many advantages available to voluntary agencies – specificity, speed and proximity to beneficiaries to name but three – are being recognised, valued and appreciated.

I believe that this recognition will give us the chance to develop an improved relationship with these agencies – one which perhaps involves long-term planning (and funding); recognition of “added value”; improved appreciation of the pressures that different parts of the “system” are under and a mutual striving for shared success – and one where all parties can learn from the other’s experience and skills, to the ultimate benefit of those suffering disadvantage and inequality. It may be a long and difficult journey, but aren’t these often the most memorable, exciting and worthwhile to engage in, especially when we get closer to our destination with each step!

Which reminds me – come along to the next Cumbria CVS Funding Fair on Thursday 10 October 2019 at Cumbria CVS, Shaddongate Resource Centre, Carlisle CA2 5TY (from 10am – 3pm): a chance to meet the agencies who want to help fund us to continue all our fantastic work across the county.  And please say hello to me and the rest of the team at Cumbria CVS: we are here to help!

David Allen
Chief Executive Officer
Cumbria CVS