Craig Dearden-Phillips: Do you believe in yourself? Then out with the self-doubt, and never say die

The charity sector has a great capacity to carry on and survive in difficult circumstances, says our columnist

Craig Dearden-Phillips
Craig Dearden-Phillips

I often hear people in the sector ask why public services and charities are copping it for the mistakes of the banks. "Make them pay more!" is the stock response to pending cutbacks. Well, yes, of course we could tax the odd extra billion. But, no, this won't solve everything.

That's because the reality is that we have all been living in a make-believe economy - charities included. Make-believe in the sense that the economy was not strong enough to fund everything we once had: the bigger staff, the offices, the deli sandwiches, the glossy annual reports.

And now we are stuck with the consequences. And there is no going back, however hard you might tax the bankers.

So now that we can't shovel responsibility elsewhere, we are left with two questions. The first is this: "What's in your hands?"

Whatever the weather, we still have choices. We can blame the rain or - more fruitfully - bring in the washing. I regularly meet a lot of people still stuck in blame rituals. How pointless is that?

The second question is: "Do you back yourself to get through this?"

I had a powerful conversation recently, when at a low ebb with my new business. I wasn't getting traction. Deep in self-doubt, I was considering joining a big corporate to take forward my vision, albeit in a much-compromised form.

"But why aren't you backing yourself?" asked my friend. "If you believe in yourself, you'll find a way."

I had, of course, forgotten for a moment the number one rule of survival, which is that you've got to believe in your own ability to so do. Lose this and you're already halfway to oblivion. Belief is a necessary condition of success.

One of the most noticeable things about our sector is actually its resilience: we do take responsibility and we tend to have a never-say-die attitude. And we do back our own ability to win through.

This is evidenced by the relatively low rate of charities going under and our astonishing ability to carry on in what have often been pretty dire circumstances.

Sitting beneath this is the dogged human spirit that animates so many of our voluntary organisations - a spirit that other sectors come nowhere near to achieving.

I know I often come across as a critic of this sector. But I love it too, not least for the best in human nature that it so strongly represents.

So if you too find yourself in the face of the storm, ask yourself now: "What's in my hands?"

Contact Craig at

- Craig Dearden-Phillips is founding chief executive of Stepping Out and a Liberal Democrat councillor in Suffolk

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