OPINION: Big egos are so small minded

We can only imagine the atmosphere, which was sufficiently strained that a "neutral" venue had to be found for the inaugural meeting. As the two unions - MSF and AEEU - joined forces to become Amicus earlier this year, there was bound to be some jostling of egos.

All too often, however, it is egotism that stands in the way of structural change happening at all. Look no further than the failure to reorganise government departments. In the months leading up to the last general election, the Institute for Public Policy Research undertook a project to redesign the architecture of government. Following a series of high-level seminar discussions, changes to departmental boundaries were recommended to improve policy making and delivery.

At the time, the research gained a great deal of interest from government.

But when it came to the crunch of the post-election reshuffle, portfolios were allocated more on the basis of ministerial interests than on any analysis of effective government. A thorough reorganisation of departments was shelved, yet again.

We'd like to think that organisational egotism isn't as much of a factor in the voluntary sector. But some charities are prepared to jeopardise their own future rather than join forces with others. The egotistical motivations that drive organisations - the desire to establish and maintain status and profile - win out time and time again.

But this only limits the ability of charities to regroup. The sector is awash with campaign groups which are coalitions in name but uncooperative by nature. Organisations are reticent to share information and fear losing their place in the competition for resources and plaudits. Consequently some coalitions are quite simply less than a sum of their parts.

These are all very human motivations and ones that, if truth be told, we all succumb to. Which is why I propose a new annual award for the third sector to recognise those who reject such self-interested urges in favour of altruistic collaboration. Perhaps Amicus could sponsor the event.

LISA HARKER, deputy director of the Institute for Public Policy Research

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