Cultural Playing Field

Third Sector Network meeting with the Wales Housing, Regeneration and Heritage Minister by Robin Simpson
November 29, 2012, 11:05 am
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I was in Cardiff on Wednesday to take part in a Third Sector Network meeting with the Housing, Regeneration and Heritage Minister, Huw Lewis. The Welsh Government has a statutory duty to promote the interests of voluntary sector organisations in the exercise of all its functions. Each Government Minister reports to bi-annual meetings with representatives of the voluntary sector.

The meetings with the Housing, Regeneration and Heritage Minister reflect the breadth of his portfolio: on Wednesday much of the meeting was taken up with discussion of the Housing Bill, the Government’s Regeneration Consultation and the forthcoming Heritage Bill. We also talked about rural community assets and sustaining them for the future, considering the possibilities of local community groups taking responsibility for the running (and ownership) of community buildings.

I spoke in support of a paper on private sector business support for voluntary sector organisations for arts and sport. The Minister had previously expressed interest in encouraging the private business sector to support voluntary arts and sports organisations. We discussed the fact that most voluntary organisations are very small and hard to find, so businesses that want to do something tend to focus on a few large charities and the majority who really need the support miss out. We talked about ways to identify and match small voluntary organisations with small and medium-sized businesses. The Minister asked the relevant third sector representatives to do some scoping work on this and meet with Government officials to discuss a way forward.

Robin Simpson.


Running Your Group Weekly, 26 November 2012 by Robin Simpson
November 29, 2012, 11:02 am
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On Monday afternoon I hosted this week’s Running Your Group Weekly in which Daniel gave us an overview of the Stronger Together resources on leadership within voluntary groups and Tony demonstrated some of the community features within Running Your Group. You can watch the recording at: We’re beginning to build a significant following for Running Your Group Weekly. More than 200 people have watched the webcasts over the past 5 weeks. Do join us online at on Monday at 5 pm.

Robin Simpson.

Consortiums, Collaborations and Community Groups by Robin Simpson
November 22, 2012, 4:08 pm
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I was back in Nottingham on Tuesday to take part in ‘Consortiums, Collaborations and Community Groups’ – an event organised by the Community Sector Coalition, WEA and Nottingham Equal. Representatives of a wide range of national and local organisations representing and supporting small community groups discussed the potential for greater collaboration to ensure that available funding reaches smaller, local organisations.

Robin Simpson.

Running Your Group Weekly, 19 November 2012 by Robin Simpson
November 22, 2012, 4:04 pm
Filed under: webcast | Tags: , , , ,

On Monday I hosted the Running Your Group Weekly webcast. Kevin gave us a tour of the Running your Group governance resources and some tips on running effective meetings and Anne talked about how amateur arts and crafts groups can get involved in the exciting Epic Awards 2013. The deadline for entries to Epic Awards is next Friday 30 November, see: You can watch the recording of Running Your Group Weekly at: and please join us there at 5 pm next Monday.

Robin Simpson.

Discussing collaboration by Robin Simpson
November 16, 2012, 4:48 pm
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I was in Edinburgh on Thursday to take part in the re.volution network Provocation Day: Who Else Could We Be Collaborating With Outside of The Arts & Cultural Sector & What is Stopping Us? re.volution is a peer learning network designed for the leaders of micro, small and medium sized arts and cultural organisations, organised by Mission Models Money. Thursday’s provocation day brought together leaders of arts organisation from across Scotland to discuss collaboration. We heard from systems thinker Dr Rupesh Shah from the Open University about how and why collaboration is so important in systems change and from Ariane Koek, Director of the Collide@CERN Artists Residency programme and Head of Arts at CERN, the world’s largest particle physics laboratory based outside Geneva and home of the Large Hadron Collider talking her work there. It was a really interesting and thought-provoking day and, as always, it was good to take some time out of a busy week to do some serious thinking and networking.

Robin Simpson.

Voluntary Arts wins the Winifred Tumim Prize for Best Practice in Charity Governance by Robin Simpson
November 16, 2012, 4:36 pm
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After the Volunteering Network meeting I headed to The Brewery to catch the end of the NCVO Trustee Conference where Voluntary Arts was announced as the winner of the 2012 Winifred Tumim Prize for Best Practice in Charity Governance. This £1000 prize is given annually in memory of former NCVO Chair Winifred Tumim, in recognition of an organisation’s application of ‘Good Governance: A Code for the Voluntary and Community Sector’. Voluntary Arts was recognised in particular for the launch of our Governance Handbook – a creative adaptation of the Good Governance Code. 47 organisations were nominated for this year’s prize and the presentation, which Peter and I attended on behalf of Voluntary Arts, was a prestigious occasion as part of the NCVO Trustee Conference which involved around 400 charity trustees from across England. To be able to say that Voluntary Arts has been recognised for Best Practice in Charity Governance is a wonderful reward for our deliberate efforts to ensure that our governance is a model of best practice for the voluntary arts sector and is a tribute to staff, Board members and Advisory Group members, past and present, across the organisation.

Robin Simpson.

The Volunteering Network by Robin Simpson
November 16, 2012, 4:25 pm
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I was in London on Monday for The Volunteering Network – a joint meeting of the England Volunteering Development Council (EVDC) and the Network of National Volunteer-Involving Agencies (NNVIA). We were joined by Justin Davis-Smith, Chief Executive of Volunteering England, and Sir Stuart Etherington, Chief Executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) to address the question ‘where’s the voice of volunteering in our new world?’. Justin and Stuart explained in detail the planned merger between Volunteering England and NCVO and how the new organisation will support volunteering. Justin said volunteering has never been more relevant and necessary but it has never been harder to make the case for investment. Stuart said that NCVO has leading edge experience in governance but not much on other aspects of volunteering and welcomed the additional expertise that Volunteering England would bring. He said volunteering is absolutely core to the future of the new merged organisation: it will be an intrinsic and important part. Stuart suggested that the nature of capacity-building will change over the coming years with more emphasis on digital and peer-to-peer learning and fewer big conference and publications. In the second half of the meeting we focussed on ‘giving time and volunteering: the post-Olympic and Paralympic opportunity’. We heard from David Moorcroft and Rebecca Birkbeck from Join In and David McCullough, the Chief Executive of WRVS. David Moorcroft said three things stood out for him from London 2012: the Torch Relay (which reached almost all parts of the country); the Paralympics (which transformed perceptions of disability); and the Games Makers (who defined the Olympic spirit).

Robin Simpson.

NCVO AGM 2012 by Robin Simpson
November 9, 2012, 3:57 pm
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On Thursday afternoon I was at the NCVO AGM. NCVO Chief Executive, Sir Stuart Etherington, praised everyone who had worked on the successful ‘Give It Back, George’ campaign. In the 2012 budget Chancellor George Osborne proposed a cap on the Gift Aid available to philanthropists which would have made it more expensive to give large gifts to charity. A consortium of voluntary sectors campaigned against this change and on 31 May George Osborne announced he would scrap the planned ‘charity tax’. Stuart also talked at length about the proposed merger between NCVO and Volunteering England which is likely to be finalised shortly. The AGM formally approved the appointment of Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson as the new President of NCVO.

Robin Simpson.

Has volunteering developed a new momentum? by Robin Simpson
November 9, 2012, 3:55 pm
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I was in London again on Thursday to take part in the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) Members Assembly meeting. The theme of the meeting was ‘Has volunteering developed a new momentum?’ – looking at the effect of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games on volunteering. NCVO Chair, Martyn Lewis, introduced the debate, saying “it’s been an amazing summer of volunteering but it does present a challenge for the volunteering organisations”.

Justin Davis-Smith, Chief Executive of Volunteering England said “we have never seen volunteering more in the public eye” but wondered whether we could keep this going. He pointed out that the 270 volunteer centres around the country are having a very tough time with their funding cut by 25% this year, on top of 18% cuts last year. Research undertaken by LOCOG indicates that 44% of the UK population wish they had been Games Makers. Justin asked how we can bottle the spirit of London 2012 in a climate where many organisations who have been working with volunteers for many years are suffering. He suggested there were six lessons from the success of the Games Makers programme: leadership, planning & strategy, management & training, recognition, innovation & technology and investment.

Tiger de Souza, Head of Volunteering at NSPCC, suggested that people had volunteered for London 2012 to be part of something massive – a once in a lifetime opportunity. Do any of our current volunteering opportunities generate similar feelings? He pointed out the attraction of a very defined time period for volunteering – whereas most volunteering opportunities are open-ended. Tiger suggested that when you ask most people how they got into volunteering the answer is something like “I made a throwaway remark at a dinner party and the next thing I knew I was the Treasurer!” He talked about the need for succession planning, role descriptions and advertising and wondered how many of us are truly following best practice. Tiger felt that calling the London 2012 volunteers ‘Games Makers’ had made a big difference. The Games Maker training events had been incredibly slick and professional, the volunteers felt special and privileged, good use had been made of technology and the whole experience had been fun. Tiger said the key lessons were that volunteering needs a re-brand, we need to create opportunities that fit into people’s lives and we need to develop recognition of the value of volunteers (as a society). The challenge is investment – we need to be creative.

It was a fascinating discussion with some excellent speakers – easily the best NCVO Members Assembly meeting I have been to.

Robin Simpson.

Cultural Co-operation by Robin Simpson
November 9, 2012, 3:54 pm
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I was in London on Wednesday to meet Prakash Daswani at Cultural Co-operation. Cultural Co-operation is a London-based arts and education charity which seeks to unite people through high quality engagement with the world’s cultural heritage. Cultural Co-operation set up an Artist Network in 2001 with the aim of helping help isolated and under-represented artists in London’s cosmopolitan population to participate fully in public cultural life. The Artist Network consists of 300 member groups and solo artists, around 1,000 creative practitioners in all, drawn from around 80 national and faith communities in 29 London Boroughs. On Wednesday Prakash and I agreed the details of a partnership between Voluntary Arts and Cultural Co-operation.

Robin Simpson