Act now so charities flourish in future recessions, urges SCVO chief

Martin Sime argues a new social economy is the key to sector's survival

Major sector organisations need to develop a social economy that will allow charities to grow during future recessions, according to Martin Sime, chief executive of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations.

Sime, who has recently returned from a six-month study tour around the world, asked an audience at an SCVO lecture series event in Edinburgh last Thursday what the use of the third sector was if it thrived only when the economy was growing.

There was huge demand, he said, for social investment that would offer a commercial return and "protect charity investments from the speculators and hedge funds".  Sime called on major organisations to show leadership in making better use of the dormant assets of charities' reserves, investments and pension funds.

He said he had also been struck by how passive the sector's policy response to the recession had been, with organisations focusing on themselves rather than their beneficiaries and causes. The sector's voice had been silent when big decisions, such as the reduction in VAT, were taken, he said.

He also lamented the lack of international coordination among sector organisations, calling their response to the recession "traditional, insular and almost entirely domestic".

He said: "Maybe what we need is a northern European or developed world network where we can learn more systematically and from where we can apply pressure at all levels where our governments cooperate."

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