Compact in action: making it work

The NCVO's former Compact manager Saskia Daggett on how the agreement can be made to work.

In the past three years, Saskia Daggett has probably dealt with more Compact breaches than anyone else.

As Compact manager for the NCVO, she led the umbrella body's advocacy programme and represented 100 charities before leaving this month to join Volunteering England as a senior strategy manager. The Compact has recently been derided from all sides for its apparent uselessness, so you might think hers was a soul-destroying job. But she says the opposite is true, and that the Compact does work - when people know how to use it. "Most charities we helped got everything they wanted," she says.

Most charities, she says, told her that their relationships with the public sector were transformed six months after a dispute broke out. Even the most bitter rows, such as that between the Learning and Skills Council and Kids in Communication, resulted in the government quango mending its ways, she says.

Her biggest regret is that more was not done to tell people about the agreement. "We didn't raise awareness enough about the Compact," she says. "Not enough effort was put into that, and that's why everyone is screaming about statutory powers now."

Daggett remains sceptical about statutory force. "The problem is poor government practice," she says. "If statutory powers are the right way to address that, then brilliant, but we need to think about it more strategically first."

She is unconvinced of the necessity to rewrite the Compact, as has been mooted. "It will take a huge amount of time, debate and consultation," she says.

"Of course the Compact has to stay relevant, but the most important thing is getting people aware of it. It's not the Compact we should be judging, but how people use it."

She names Kids in Communication as her most harrowing case and Alstrom Syndrome UK, a one-woman charity that used the Compact to force health organisations to secure its future, as the most rewarding.

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