Kohli vows to forge close relations at ground level

Jitinder Kohli, the head of the Home Office Active Communities Directorate, is spearheading a culture change throughout his organisation that will see its 60-strong team talking directly to more front-line voluntary groups.

Kohli, who joined the directorate from the Treasury last September, said: "I don't believe you can make good policy if you don't get enough of how it feels at the other end of the telescope."

He said he wants directorate staff to reduce their reliance on information from the sector's umbrella bodies, and get out and visit grassroots groups more than they have done in the past.

"We will inevitably have contact with the umbrella bodies, because we don't have the capacity to go and visit more than 150,000 voluntary sector organisations and we obviously have to rely on other people to help us.

But it would be wrong to rely exclusively on them, and we need to spend more time than we have done previously getting out and about.

"Once you go to the other end of the telescope, it doesn't feel like 'the voluntary sector'. It's just people trying to make a difference in their local communities."

One manifestation of the drive for closer relations with the sector has been the expansion of the ACU's annual State of the Sector research. As of last year, the once-yearly postal survey has been augmented by a telephone survey of voluntary organisations, to be held up to three times a year.

"One of the things it will do is give us an opportunity to find out what's on the minds of the sector," said Kohli. "We can ask them questions about what sorts of things worry them before they become worries."

- See Newsmaker, p21.

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