Nearly every part of the country now has a local Compact. But signing an agreement is one thing; making it effective is another.
Shaping our Future Together, a conference in Hatfield, Hertfordshire, next Monday, will look at ways of turning the good intentions of Compact signatories into more fruitful cross-sector relationships.
The event is being organised by Local Compact Voice, a network of 350 people who are interested in developing their local Compacts. The network is part of Compact Voice, the voluntary sector representative body for Compact issues.
"A resourced, championed and local area agreement-linked Compact that is known and used even by small groups and has an effective disputes procedure is still a rarity," says Paul Barasi, Local Compact Voice officer and one of the conference speakers.
"Compacts are supposed to make and deliver the deal," he says. "The reality seems to be that the move to three-year funding is slower than planned, policy processes still need opening up to more local groups and voluntary and community activity is under threat from grant funding losing out to commissioning.
"Public bodies also need to build their awareness of how the Compact deal is good for them. Then local Compacts can be turned into good practice stories."
That the event is being held in Hertfordshire is no coincidence; it is widely regarded as one of the counties that takes the Compact most seriously.
Representatives from national bodies including the Commission for the Compact, the NCVO and Navca will meet staff from local councils for voluntary service and public sector employees.
The debate is likely to focus on local area agreements, which set out priorities for an area as decided by central and local government and local strategic partnerships. It will be an opportunity for members of the voluntary sector to promote the Compact and push to ensure any performance assessment of their local area agreement adheres to it.
Barasi says local area agreements provide fresh opportunities. "If people are to shape their own futures, then the third sector and public bodies need to play a leadership role to foster community empowerment and participation," he says.