On Wednesday I was at Mary Ward House in London to take part in the NCVO Impact of Infrastructure 2012 conference. The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) is approaching the end of its 3-year Value of Infrastructure Programme (VIP), funded by the Big Lottery Fund. Opening the conference, NCVO Deputy Chief Executive, Ben Kernighan, said there had been a big investment in voluntary sector infrastructure over the past decade – which he called a “golden age for funding for the voluntary sector”. The current Government focus is towards the ‘front line’ rather than infrastructure organisations. But Ben emphasised that “infrastructure is a really important part of the sector and has emerged from the sector … its role in providing a voice and advocacy for the sector is crucial”. He also spoke about a shift from supply-led to demand-driven support. Leesa Herbert from NCVO explained how the Value of Infrastructure Programme provided a robust and relevant framework, categorising the three key common roles of infrastructure organisations as: connecting; developing; and influencing. Sara Burns from Triangle Consulting explained how they had worked with NCVO to develop the VIP impact measurement tools. I spoke, in the afternoon plenary session, about how Voluntary Arts has started to use these impact measurement tools and the way in which we introduced staff and Board members to the system through a series of exercises at our 2011 Awayday. The Impact of Infrastructure conference was an extremely interesting and well-attended event. There were around 150 delegates – mainly from local voluntary sector infrastructure organisations (Councils for Voluntary Service and similar) but with a reasonable representation of national specialist infrastructure bodies like Voluntary Arts. Given how often it seems like we are a unique and complicated organisation, it was very reassuring to meet so many people doing similar work in different locations and sectors.
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