At Work: Partnerships - Collaborators Non-profits working together

Mathew Little

Coalition is a runaway success.

The UK Coalition on Runaways works to meet the needs of smaller charities.

For the founders of the UK Coalition on Runaways, size really does matter. The group is unusual among charity partnerships in that it was deliberately set up to meet the needs of smaller organisations.

"We wanted to get the smaller organisations involved, the ones that don't always get the chance to meet government," says Andy McCullough, UK policy and strategy adviser at Crewe-based charity Railway Children.

He adds: "The idea behind the coalition is to have an honest dialogue about the relationships between larger and smaller charities."

McCullough joined Railway Children, which helps street children, from the Children's Society and was immediately struck by the sense of isolation. "For the first time, I felt quite excluded from what was going on, from the sharing of knowledge," he says.

A meeting was organised with his old employers, Get Connected and the National Missing Person's Helpline, which runs the Runaway Helpline, and the idea of the coalition was born.

Still in its early stages, the coalition helped persuade MPs Helen Southworth (Labour, Warrington South) and Paul Burstow (Liberal Democrat, Sutton and Cheam) to set up the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Runaways. The group now has the support of 30 MPs.

But the young coalition's main aim was to recruit smaller organisations.

"We went to the small ones first on purpose," says McCullough. Groups such as Alternatives to Running Away, based in Gloucester, Talk Don't Walk from Warrington and Yorkshire's Safe At Last were among the first to join.

The coalition was formally launched last month, with a membership of 27. The NSPCC, which now runs ChildLine, is among the larger charities that have now joined.

A paid independent chair will be appointed to "counterbalance the view that the big charities always get their feet under the table", as McCullough puts it.

Depending on the desires of the membership, the coalition can share best practice, launch campaigns or attempt to influence government behind the scenes.

"I think that when large charities get involved, they tend to want to run with things because they have larger infrastructures," says McCullough.

"But so far I have been pleasantly surprised that they do understand it's a coalition and we have to find common ground."

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