Opinion: Let's raise a glass to the coming recession

As a positive soul, I have just compiled a list headed "good things about the recession".

First, it will shake the tree. We'll now see a mass cull of thousands of dreadful organisations that provide very little except comfortable employment for their staff. We all know a few of these and nobody will miss them one bit. At least their funding can now go on something useful.

Second, we will see the sector become more accountable. For years we have got away with being the sector of great anecdotes. When asked about the difference we make, we often bang on about our best-ever success or offer improbable statistics that would do a Soviet-era government proud ("our two staff provide services for 267,000 people" and so on). In a tougher climate, those who properly measure and prove impact will thrive while those who bleat that it's all too difficult will sink.

Third, the recession could take our relationship with government to a better place. The past few years have been like the very early days of love: we've passed a lot of compliments and exchanged looks of longing before, eventually, taking them back to our place for coffee. The result has been the Office of the Third Sector, some great ministers and a place in the sun.

But the recession will quickly puncture the romance. Difficult things are going to be said. Government's doubts about us will come out ("can you really deliver?") and our resentments will come flooding through ("why does the hammer still fall on us first?"). As with any relationship, however, all this will simply have to happen. Emerging from this turmoil, I believe, will be a better understanding of our long-term usefulness to each other as lifetime partners.

And boy, are we useful. Society is about to be convulsed by pain on a scale not seen for nearly 20 years. As ever, we are often first on the scene. In the longer term, the pending catastrophe in the public finances will mean much faster public service reform. This won't only mean more business for our sector, but also more 'voice' as we push hard to ensure that services are shaped by users, not Whitehall.

OK, three is a short list, but I bet you could add to it. There's still plenty to feel good about, so let's raise a glass to the recession!

- Craig Dearden-Phillips is chief executive of Speaking Up and writes in a personal capacity.

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