Is our sector in or out when it comes to the EU?

A visit to the Louvre has our columnist thinking about the forthcoming EU referendum

I was recently in Paris with my partner, Andy. He studied art for five years and was keen to visit the Louvre. Once there, we dragged our way around the exhibits for 17th-century France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Rome and England, and ended up lost in Egypt. Andy knew I'd lost the will when, trying to find our way out of the interminable corridors, we turned yet another corner, saw yet another lot of sarcophagi, and I was heard to mutter grumpily: "Oh look, more stuff." I think in fairness I should admit that I'm not terribly arty. I prefer data and graphs and equations and sums. My degree is a BSc, not a BA.

But my love of facts and data does not blind me to the fact that evidence does not really drive decision-making. A fact is not really a fact. Or rather, it is, but it can be interpreted or dismissed in any way that suits the viewer of said fact. Statistics in political debate tend to be the slaves of ideology, not the masters. Students of behavioural economics will attest that our emotional reactions to the facts drive decisions, not the facts inherently.

For charities, of course, that's a bonus. The March edition of Third Sector referenced the academic William MacAskill, who argues that effective altruism means we should donate to or support only the most-effective causes. Notwithstanding that "effectiveness" is itself a very subjective perspective, if that were so millions of causes that cost more to solve problems, or that are deeply unpopular, would never get supported. So thank goodness for emotional irrationality when it comes to giving.

So too when it comes to thinking about the European Union and how to vote in the referendum. I've listened hard to folks' views. I've looked at data. I've witnessed debates with my family and friends. And I've come to believe that the decision on which way to vote is going to be more artistic than scientific, because we simply don't know what will happen if we stay or go.

We can't foretell the future, so any decisions we make are inevitably going to be ideological ones, although we might succeed in convincing ourselves that they're based on evidence. Ultimately, the question we have to answer for ourselves is this: do we have an independent, don't-rely-on- others, go-it-alone mentality, or are we for integration, breaking down barriers, solving problems together? Both are valid points of view.

My sense, however, is that the latter position is what drives most charities. Sharing, caring, helping others in need. Not going it alone but all pulling together, no matter what the challenges are. The Directory of Social Change doesn't have a position on the EU referendum because our beneficiaries, other charities, are all affected in different ways. But some of our sector colleagues will and should campaign on the referendum if it affects their beneficiaries.

Based on our common underlying sector ideologies I suspect most will be innies, rather than outies. Me personally? One of the most inspiring moments I have witnessed in my lifetime was the pulling down of the Berlin wall. So I'm for demolishing barriers, not building them - sharing the art, even if I don't always appreciate it.

Debra Allcock Tyler is chief executive of the Directory of Social Change

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