Third Sector Excellence Awards 2011: Introduction

Elephant Family, Muslim Hands and Beatbullying are among the winners at this year's Third Sector Excellence Awards, says Stephen Cook

Stephen Cook, editor
Stephen Cook, editor

In a time of austerity and cutbacks, one thing that lifted the spirits of Londoners for a short period last year was the appearance all over the city of brightly coloured models of elephants. This was part of the campaign mounted by the Elephant Family to save the Asian elephant - and it caught the imagination of this year's judges so strongly that it scoops not one but two prizes at this year's Third Sector Excellence Awards.

Two other entrants are double winners. One is the homelessness charity Thames Reach with its campaign to change the law on super-strength alcoholic drinks and its project to help destitute east Europeans to return home: it wins Communications Campaign and Big Impact. The other is St Peter's Hospice, which transformed the fortunes of one of its charity shops in spite of the economic conditions: it wins both Charity Trading and Social Enterprise.

Another outstanding winner is Samaritans for its partnership with Network Rail. The company had become fatalistic about suicides on the railways, but the charity convinced it that something could be done and came up with the ideas that have helped reduce the loss of life significantly. This was a classic example of the voluntary sector taking the lead in tackling a problem others have given up on or ignored.

The success of smaller charities dealing with less popular causes is another notable strand in this year's story. Eric wins Small Charity, Big Achiever for its work in helping children and families with the distressing problem of childhood incontinence, and Muslim Hands wins Direct Marketing Campaign for the way it helped donors with limited English to make use of Gift Aid. And Beatbullying, one of last year's winners, comes top in the Use of Digital Media for its inspired Big March campaign.

Finally, there are the outstanding individuals. Barrington Wright of St Giles Trust is named Volunteer of the Year for his work against gang culture, Helen Baker of Advance Housing and Support wins the new Charity Chair category, and Kevin Curley of Navca is awarded the Lifetime Achievement prize. Curley has been one of the giants of the sector in recent years and we wish him the best for his retirement, when he will no doubt be as busy as ever.

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