Cultural Playing Field


Understanding ‘below the radar’ organisations and activities in the Third Sector by Robin Simpson
July 31, 2009, 9:29 am
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On Thursday morning I was in London to meet Angus McCabe from the Third Sector Research Centre. Angus is leading TSRC’s work on ‘below the radar’ community organisations and is currently interviewing a range of national networks and infrastructure bodies who support small community groups. He is particularly concerned about the lack of academic research into small cultural organisations and very keen to look at the impact of voluntary arts groups on their communities.

Robin Simpson.



Meeting the DCMS arts team by Robin Simpson
July 31, 2009, 9:27 am
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I was back at DCMS on Tuesday where Reemer and I met Mandy Barrie, Nick Pontefract and Stephen Darke from the arts team. We talked in detail about the Arts Council England Amateur Arts Partnership Development Programme – particularly the actions on ‘regional networking’ and ‘capacity building’ that Voluntary Arts England is leading. We also discussed informal adult learning and progress in relation to several aspects of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills white paper ‘The Learning Revolution’. We updated Mandy, Nick and Steve on the planned launch of the Participation Manifesto and our various initiatives to encourage voluntary arts groups to get involved in the Cultural Olympiad.

Robin Simpson.



DCMS Opportunity and Excellence Programme Board by Robin Simpson
July 31, 2009, 9:26 am
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On Monday I was at DCMS in London for a meeting of the Opportunity and Excellence Programme Board. This Board oversees the department’s progress against two of its four ‘departmental strategic objectives’ and brings together senior civil servants with the Chief Executives of Arts Council England, English Heritage, Sport England, the Museums Libraries and Archives Council and the National National Museum Director’s Conference. On Monday we discussed the set of indicators that will be used to track progress against the ‘excellence’ target (DSO2). I stressed the need to look at how we can collectively encourage excellence in those parts of the cultural and sporting sectors that do not receive public funding. We also spent some time discussing barriers to participation (in relation to the ‘opportunity’ target (DSO1)). Research shows that the common barriers (across the cultural and sporting sectors) are lack of awareness, practical difficulties, personal difficulties and psychological fears. The last of these seems to be the most significant in relation to arts participation with lack of confidence and perceived lack of skill being the most common reasons for not participating.

Robin Simpson.



The future of ‘membership’ by Robin Simpson
July 22, 2009, 3:14 pm
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On Wednesday I was at the National Council for Voluntary Organisations in London to take part in a focus group as part of the NCVO/RSA project on ‘the future of membership’. Representatives of a wide range of Third Sector organisations discussed what ‘membership’ means in their contexts and how ideas of ‘membership’ are changing. We heard examples of ‘member’ being used to mean subscribers, mailing list recipients, those with a governance role, volunteers, clients, supporters, ambassadors and advocates. In most cases ‘members’ seem to be expected to fulfil several of these roles. We also looked at external factors which are changing the way in which people engage with voluntary organisations, particularly the recession, technology and localism. It was a fascinating afternoon which provided much food for thought. You can follow the progress of ‘the future of membership’ on the Third Sector Foresight website at http://www.3s4.org.uk/.

Robin Simpson.



England Volunteering Development Council meeting by Robin Simpson
July 17, 2009, 9:40 am
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On Thursday I was back in London to attend a meeting of the England Volunteering Development Council. We heard a presentation on the progress of the Modernising Volunteering National Support Service which is looking at employer-supported volunteering, new forms of volunteering, volunteering in faith-based organisations and increasing diversity. Justin Davis-Smith from Volunteering England talked about the work VE has been doing with the TUC to update the guidelines on relations between paid staff and volunteers which date back to 1979: comments are sought by the end of July on the draft new guidelines which are on the Volunteering England website. We had an update on the ‘refresh’ of the Voluntary Sector Compact: the revised Compact will be available from next Monday 20 July for a three month consultation. There was some concern about the implementation of the Department for Work and Pensions volunteering brokerage scheme which aims to place 34,000 long-term unemployed people in volunteering opportunities over the next two years. Saskia Daggett from Volunteering England presented a comprehensive review of the work of the six action groups which were established to follow-up the recommendations of the Commission on the Future of Volunteering. These action groups have now finished their work and the list of their achievements is very impressive. Finally we heard more details of the YouthNet/Volunteering England 2012 Volunteering Legacy project which aims to build a sustainable electronic volunteering infrastructure.

Robin Simpson.



2012 Olympics Volunteering Inspiration and Legacy Stakeholders Advisory Group by Robin Simpson
July 17, 2009, 9:38 am
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Finally on Wednesday I took part in a preliminary meeting of the 2012 Olympics Volunteering Inspiration and Legacy Stakeholders Advisory Group at the Cabinet Office. This is to become the formal stakeholder advisory group for the government’s 2012 legacy programmes. We heard from David Brooker, Director of Legacy at the Government Olympic Executive, who is responsible for all aspects of the legacy the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games are intended to generate. The Government’s 2012 Legacy Action Plan was published in June 2008 and covers the legacy for East London, the legacy for sport, the economic legacy and the social legacy. David spoke to us specifically about the social legacy programmes, focussing particularly on the planned campaign to inspire participation and the plan to increase levels of volunteering. These will involve a major social legacy marketing campaign linked to a mechanism for directing people to opportunities to participate in sport, health, education, the environment and culture across the UK. Claire Easterman from YouthNet explained the YouthNet/Volunteering England project, funded by the Office of the Third Sector, which will develop the national volunteering database (‘do-it’) to create a single place to bring together all the opportunities to participate which are inspired by 2012. I still have concerns about the lack of connection between this project and both the informal adult learning ‘portal’ being developed by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the online aspects of Arts Council England’s forthcoming national campaign on arts participation – all three of which should provide voluntary arts groups with the opportunity to advertise for more members. But I am pleased to be part of this new stakeholder advisory group and hope to be able to ensure that the voluntary arts sector takes advantage of the various opportunities presented by the 2012 legacy programmes.

Robin Simpson.



NALGAO Trustees Committee meeting by Robin Simpson
July 17, 2009, 9:37 am
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On Wednesday afternoon I made a brief appearance at the National Association of Local Government Officers Trustees Committee meeting where we had a worrying discussion about the effects of the Association of Chief Police Officers guidance on charging for the policing of outdoor events. We also talked about the Participation Manifesto which we now hope to be able to launch at the NALGAO Conference in Swindon in October.

Robin Simpson.