Government should fund leadership development in charities, says MP

Labour's Alun Michael says the Compact could be used to ask for funding agreements to include resources for training

Alun Michael
Alun Michael

Government bodies should be encouraged to fund leadership development among charities they work with, according to the Labour MP Alun Michael.

Speaking at a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Civil Society and Volunteering in the House of Commons yesterday, Michael said the Compact - the agreement that sets out how government bodies should work with the voluntary sector – should be strengthened to encourage public bodies to recognise and support training for potential future leaders.

The event was set up to discuss the findings of the Leadership 20:20 Commission, which in December published a set of proposals for encouraging a wider range of people to take leadership roles in the sector.

The proposals included "opening up effective pathways" for those working in the sector to take leadership roles, and encouraging funders and commissioners to include leadership development in funding agreements.

In response to the commission’s proposals, Michael, who chairs the APPGCSV, said: "I’m surprised there was no reference to the Compact. Is it not an issue of strengthening the Compact to require government departments and other government bodies to observe a very basic element – that if a charity can’t develop its staff’s capacity, people can’t deliver?"

Richard Doughty, partnership development officer at the charity Advocacy Alliance and the commission’s chair, said: "That may well be a way of taking our ideas forward." He said, however, that there was a feeling in the sector that the Compact was not always adhered to.

"The sector’s leadership does not represent the groups it supports," he said. "There is a lack of women, ethnic minorities and disabled people in leadership roles."

Jo Sullivan, head of resourcing at Guide Dogs and a commission member, told the meeting that 72 per cent of respondents to a survey carried out by the commission said not enough was being done to promote the voluntary sector as a career path. She did not say how many people were surveyed or when.

Sullivan said large charities were more likely to be run by men than women, but 70 per cent of the sector’s workforce was female. She said two-thirds of charity chairs were male and 96 per cent were white.

"Civil society needs to realise that leaders come from a wide variety of backgrounds," she said.

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