Friday, 29 May 2015

Everything that's wrong with lottery funding - in one quotation


The quote is from a chap called Henry Kippin who works for an organisation called Collaborate CIC (who do something very important around" creative thinking, policy development, and a ‘shared space’ for insight, debate and problem-solving"). It's in the house magazine of professional urban nonsense, New Start:

A proactive navigating of sector boundaries has precipitated more creative, iterative and diffuse ways of reaching scale – blending public funding with social finance and a more proactive role for the private sector. Far from protecting a sense of safe isolation, funders celebrate confident interdependence and regularly take collective risks on path-breaking initiatives to build social capacity and resilience. The impact on funding beneficiaries feels profound; offering the possibility of new routes to impact, and an alternative to the increasingly fraught relationship between social action and the local state.

I'm pretty sure that Henry knew what he meant when he wrote that paragraph - it's a picture of the 'social funding' environment in 2025 if we all do what Collaborate thinks we should do. The problem is - and I know you've spotted it - that the prediction does actually say anything of substance. Roughly translated it says that 'social funders' (that's the lottery, charitable trusts and other formal philanthropy) will be most effective if they work in partnership with the public sector in their funding decisions. You could call it 'collaboration' but in truth its the alignment of private initiative with the policies and priorities of the state.

Such an arrangement suits the public sector and, since that is the pond in which they swim, also meets the needs of those who work for the big social funders. But for that social funding to be most effective it should be challenging the state - investing in things that government can't or won't do. This isn't about plugging perceived gaps in provision but rather is a route to new ideas and new activities. What Henry and his pals are proposing isn't a beautiful collaborative future but rather the de facto nationalisation of social funding - the further submission of charity to to objectives of big government.

Right now most of the social funding out there goes to a very limited pool of recipients. Funding is most likely to go to organisations with full time workers where the focus is on capacity, social infrastructure and campaigning rather than on what most of us normal folk think of as charity. Most of the social action taking place today isn't being done by these organisations but rather by a host of little groups doing things they think important. Nine out of ten charities and community groups don't employ anyone yet to read what organisations like Collaborate say you'd think this was the exception not the norm.

If social funders want to make a real difference they need to change what they do and how the fund. Not by getting more cuddly with the state or even holding hands with private business, but by widening their net and supporting the small battalions of volunteers that really do make a difference in all our communities. Sadly though, people like Henry with their jargon-ridden wibble will win the day meaning that the distance between real voluntary work and the activity of the "third sector" gets ever larger.

Thousands of organisations simply don't bother approaching those big social funders. Not because they don't need support and aren't doing great work. Rather it's because they take one look at the information provided by the funder and decide they have no chance of getting support. "No point in us applying for funding, they never give money to organisations like us round here" - I've heard this dozens of times and, however much Henry and his pals want to say it ain't so, I know it's the truth.

So if Henry wants to change things - wants a better future for 'social funding' - he should start arguing that support should be directed to real social action being done by ordinary people in every community rather than for some sort of grand unified theory of collaborative funding that's really just code for doing what the government wants.


1 comment:

Nigel Sedgwick said...

"The problem is - and I know you've spotted it - that the prediction does actually say anything of substance."

Is there a missing negation in this key sentence?

Best regards