Third Sector Excellence Awards 2013: Introduction

2013 sees a higher than usual proportion of prizes for less well-known charities , writes Stephen Cook

Each year, there is a slightly different flavour to the Third Sector Excellence Awards - a sense that certain charitable themes or organisations have gained ground among the entries and winners, for reasons that are not easy to pin down. 

This year, there is the usual strong showing by well-known charities in mainstream causes, such as medical research and animal welfare: there have been outstanding achievements, for example, by Prostate Cancer UK and Battersea Dogs & Cats Home.

But what I have noticed in 2013 is a higher than usual proportion of prizes for less well-known charities working on behalf of people who are disadvantaged and marginalised. Eleven of the 19 winners are not household names, and eight are people or organisations working in less popular causes.

The Volunteer of the Year, James Middleton, is a former prisoner working with Phoenix Futures to help other offenders; Best Start-Up is the Open Door Centre in Liverpool, tackling depression and anxiety among young people; and Small Charity, Big Achiever is the excellent JAN Trust, working to build the confidence and language skills of women in ethnic minority and refugee communities.

Does this reflect the difficult times that the country has been going through recently, when charities have, as ever, stepped in to help and support those who fall through a weakened safety net? There is no sure answer, but it seems likely to me.

And then there are touches of sheer brilliance, seen this year in the Dogs Trust annual review, presented as an A to Z, and The Lonely Dodo, a campaign about species extinction from the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. They make you smile and think at the same time.

Finally, Baroness Jill Pitkeathley, who takes the Lifetime Achievement Award, is something of a heroine. She combines constructive political skills and wide experience with an unwavering commitment to strengthening and resourcing the voluntary sector.

Stephen Cook, editor, Third Sector


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