In Norwich today on the fifth leg of our Big Ask tour. We are going round the country asking members their views on what support they would like from ACEVO both in terms of our lobbying of the next government and the services we provide to chief executives. Turnout at these meeting has been great and members, as always, have been full of constructive and practical ideas about how we tackle the challenges ahead.
One particularly striking thing at each of these meetings has been the proportion of members who say that they are optimistic about the future versus those who say that they are pessimistic. Almost everyone has said that they are optimistic about the future for our sector in spite of the tough times we know we have ahead.
This mood strikes me as being in sharp contrast to much of the rhetoric in the sector at the moment, but is I think entirely appropriate. As a sector we do have the potential to provide the solutions to many of the problems which the country is facing. We can deliver better more personalised and more cost effective service which help to bring and hold communities together. We can provide a voice for the disempowered and support people to contribute to the maximum of their potential. The question is whether we can articulate our offer in a way which makes us “irresistible” to government, and makes them sit up and take note.
It’s all to do with how we position our sector, and we as umbrella bodies have a key role in that. We must avoid presenting ourselves as yet another victim of the recession needing to be propped up by handouts. We must position ourselves as providing the answers to the problems which the country faces and demonstrate the value we bring to justify the necessary investment. We must provide commissioners with solutions to help them to make the brave choices they need to make in order to redesign the way services are delivered.
Some of this is of course about us getting better at collecting and presenting evidence of the impact which we make. But a great deal of it is about attitude. The biggest thrill in my job is working with chief executives who are committed to delivering solutions not problems and I am proud to play my part in representing them.