OPINION: Think capacity not core costs for the sector

If I hear the words "core costs

again, I shall scream. When will people realise this whole debate is a red herring? I don't mean it's not important, but it is of much lower level concern. Focusing on core costs lures organisations into believing that if they can get their funding sorted, the rest is easy. Whatever happened to the bigger picture?

Last week, the Treasury announced it is creating an investment fund worth ?xA3;125 million to "modernise the sector". There are several good things about this. First, the recognition of a need for an independent voluntary sector shaping, as well as delivering, policy. Second, the process of cross-departmental collaboration between the Treasury and Home Office is to be welcomed. And, most importantly, a commitment to build "capacity

within the sector.

Capacity is a groovy new word, but what does it mean? In my book, capacity building offers the opportunity for the sector to recognise its potential to identify key social issues, analyse them and ensure sustainable responses by catalysing resources across sector boundaries.

But, oh, I forgot the Government hasn't done anything about VAT. This almost rivals core costs on the whinge scale. Here is a ?xA3;125 million investment in the sector to help power it up. Let's sort ourselves out and think laterally about how we can produce a return on this investment. How can we use our resources (knowledge, skills and money) to create new partnerships, share costs, hold equity and lever in new forms of support?

At Guide Dogs, we have used our funds (with the agreement of the Charity Commission) to lever in additional investment from local authorities to visual impairment services. Maybe, with a little government investment, we could create a service-funding model.

This is just one example of what could happen. What drives it is a common vision across sector boundaries of what needs to be done. There is real potential for voluntary organisations to seize the initiative and ensure this "investment

creates a sea change in the sector and society, producing in the words of Shakespeare from the Tempest "something rich and strange".

GERALDINE PEACOCK, chief executive of the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association

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