Third sector life is not about competition

Debra Allcock Tyler says there's room for everyone in the voluntary sector

I have an 85-year-old apple tree at the bottom of my garden. Sitting on my small terrace recently, I noticed that some crocuses had sprung up around the tree's base.

It made me think about life on our planet. I reflected on how most of earth's living creatures, apart from humans, seem to be able to coexist and share resources. The apple tree doesn't get upset about the existence of the crocuses, or cross that they are taking some nutrients and water from the earth that was previously its domain exclusively. Even predators take only what they need - their purpose is not to annihilate the competition for the sake of it.

What's the leadership point here? Well, it makes me terribly sad that so many organisations in the voluntary sector appear unable to coexist. We so often lose sight of the bigger picture in the drive to compete and 'win'

resources. And all too often, larger, financially successful charities trample over small ones - when all they want is a fair share of the nutrients so that they can play their own small but vital part in our common desire to improve society.

We leaders in the sector must not forget our higher purpose. We are not the private sector. It is not our job to beat the competition. Our job is to serve. Albert Einstein sums this up for me. Read this quote and think about what it means in the context of leading your organisation. There is room for us all.

"A human being is part of the whole called by us 'universe', a part apparently limited in time and space. We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest - a kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us.

"Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.

"Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner peace."

Debra Allcock Tyler is chief executive of the Directory of Social Change and chair of the Small Charities Coalition

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