People living in the London Borough of Hackney face exceptionally tough challenges. Every ward in the borough is among the country's most deprived 10 per cent of wards. The latest health and wellbeing profile tells us that obesity in adults, the incidence of HIV, child dental decay and smoking rates are all well above the London average.
It's unsurprising, therefore, that the local voluntary sector is involved in a high level of campaigning on both public health issues and local policies. Demand for support falls on Hackney Council for Voluntary Service, whose limited resources mean that it has to respond selectively.
Jake Ferguson, chief executive of the CVS, invited me to work with his trustees and staff to find a better way of deciding which campaigns to support than relying on his personal judgement. We arrived at 10 questions to test and score a campaign:
- Does support for the campaign fit with the charity's mission and equalities policy?
- Will the campaign address the needs of disadvantaged people in our area, or of a minority group experiencing discrimination?
- Does the campaign stand a realistic chance of making a real difference for people in our area? And are the campaign objectives clear and achievable?
- Is supporting the campaign a low risk for us in terms of our relationships with funders, local voluntary groups and other stakeholders?
- Does a decision not to support the campaign present us with serious risks?
- Is the campaign legal and balanced politically in the light of the CC9 guidance from the Charity Commission?
- Is the need for our charity's resources, including staff time, to support the campaign, proportionate and achievable?
- Is there a good evidence base behind the campaign?
- Is our involvement critically important for the success of the campaign?
- Would our involvement add real value to it?
- Does the campaign tie in with our current work or give us new opportunities to build trust with a local group or community?
Having decided to support or lead a campaign, further questions need to be considered. How do we monitor the progress of the campaign and measure its impact or success? What resources do we need to commit? Do we expect all staff and trustees to be involved – for example, by using social media to promote the campaign? Do we, in order to protect our reputation, need to tell members and service users, funders, local politicians and the media why we are supporting this campaign? How long will we be involved?
So often innovatory local practice remains hidden in one place. Here's an opportunity for you to take Hackney's work and use it in your area.
Kevin Curley is a voluntary sector adviser