Opinion - Proud to work in partnership

Lisa Harker, chair of the Daycare Trust, but writes in a personal capacity

It's not often you read a report about the so-called 'added value' of the voluntary sector and want to scream YES! In fact, let's be honest, most of the time it's a struggle to get past the executive summary.

But the RNID has produced a report about its own contribution to public services so awash with confidence and zeal that I found myself thinking it should be on every public sector manager's summer reading list.

Adding Value to Public Services describes how the RNID came to work in partnership with government to bring improvements to services for deaf and hard-of-hearing people. It sets out what the charity achieved and why it was uniquely placed to do so. Without flannel or recourse to complex theories it simply illustrates how being in touch with service users, passionate about making a difference and unconstrained by traditional public sector boundaries, can make voluntary organisations a powerful force for change. It also explodes the myth that entering into a partnership with government means that you have to stop being a constructive critic.

There is much need for this kind of material. While opportunities to help deliver public services are greater than ever, the nature of partnership between the public and voluntary sector often remains unsatisfactory.

Voluntary organisations are viewed as suppliers of services rather than agents of change, funding arrangements sap organisations of power, and progress is held up by misplaced suspicion about the partnerships.

For the sector to take advantage of the opportunities now on offer, it has to get on the front foot, to convince itself and others that change is possible on its own terms.

What is refreshing about the RNID report is that, rather than presenting the usual self-conscious, overly-modest, tortured analysis in support of the sector's added value, it simply brims with certainty about the value of the charity's motives, methods and achievements. With the promise of a summit between the Government and the voluntary sector in the autumn, this report provides a timely example of how the sector could present itself.

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