By Ian Bruce, Chief Executive, Glasgow Council for the Voluntary Sector (GCVS)
The last eight months have been a period of incredible change and disruption for the third sector – including us at the Glasgow Council for the Voluntary Sector – and the end is far from in sight. Many organisations have seen their fundamental business model undermined with income from activities, events fundraising and trading all dramatically down for the sector. These changes are paired with a tsunami of demand placed on the sector, as the virus – and more critically the economic downturn it has brought – continue to affect families and communities.
Managers and boards of third sector organisations must plot their path for the future in this new context. This task is challenging, not just because of the impact itself, but more so because of the high levels of uncertainty – a recognition that events outside of our control will continue to test our plans and our resilience.
The task is not small – areas to be addressed include amongst many others:
- Digital – organisations must consider how they respond to the digital revolution. This includes ensuring that their staff are suitably trained to use new technology, but also that they are able to offer new digital approaches to their customers – all while recognising that a significant proportion of the population they serve remain digitally excluded.
- Resources – income is already down for many organisations. Brexit will bring about the end of European funding, with no clarity yet on what might replace that. Pressure on statutory and independent funders will continue to grow alongside the demands from people driven into poverty by Brexit, COVID and potentially further austerity.
- Reform – there will likely be a continual push on organisations to consider how they can better engage with communities, how they can innovate further, how they can collaborate for impact and how they can achieve prevention rather than mitigation of negative outcomes.
- Leadership – organisations must continue to review and improve how they are run. Modern approaches to leadership must be aligned with strong governance and empowering management.
It is in this context that GCVS is delighted to have begun work this autumn with the University of Glasgow on The Collaborative, a new and innovative approach to partnership between the third sector and academia. We’ve connected organisations to in-depth support from University of Glasgow academics on risk management in partnership working and on approaches to digital and hybrid working. Continuing and expanding our relationship with The Collaborative brings the opportunity for real sharing between sectors. Academics gain an insight into the practical experiences of third sector organisations at the coalface of Glasgow and Scotland’s social challenges. In return, third sector organisations get access to world class research and learning.
Our new partnership is a logical and valuable response to the challenge that we all face. GCVS exists to support over 3,000 third sector organisations in the city. Our limited resources must remain focused on those activities which are core to all and reach as many organisations as possible. Partnerships like The Collaborative mean we have the capacity to dig deeper, to identify organisations that have the potential to transform lives for the most disadvantaged in the city and to help them realise their potential with in-depth academic engagement.
The opportunities are clear for those third sector organisations able to take advantage, including:
- Access to high quality research on the people they work with and the approaches that have the greatest impact;
- Support around business management to help them run their organisation better; and
- Access to an amazing talent pool of students who increasingly are not just clever, but also incredibly passionate about doing good in the world.
And it is not only organisations directly involved with The Collaborative that benefit. As they learn they will formally and informally share their learning with the wider sector. Equally as the partnership between GCVS and the University of Glasgow develops, GCVS’ core training offer can be improved based on our learning from participating. In the next period we look forward to collaborating to develop a model of working together in the long term to make the most of the resources and skills from both partners.
To cite this article: Bruce, Ian, GCVS and the Third Sector Knowledge Exchange Collaborative: a valuable response to our challenges, Policy Scotland, https://policyscotland.gla.ac.uk/gcvs-and-the-third-sector-knowledge-exchange-collaborative, 4 November 2020