Why the Third Sector is not of Third Importance – The Growing Significance of the UK Voluntary Sector

On the 10th June I went with two of my colleagues to a meeting of the Scottish Council of Voluntary Organisations (SCVO). They are an umbrella organisation that tries to make their contributors work more coherently. In a manner of speaking the SCVO is the ‘Improvement Service’ of the voluntary sector so hearing presentations from their stake holders proved quite illuminating. My manager, Mike McLean, gave a talk, to a very receptive audience, on the benefits of the Communities of Practice (CoP) to voluntary organisations that work with local authorities. The meeting proved valuable, with several enquires about CoP have already been received. The meeting highlighted how transferable the CoP can be for differing organisations to work with local authorities to improve outcomes. To see how the CoP could help your voluntary organisation work with local government then visit the Improvement Service website.

The importance and magnitude of the third sector can best be highlighted through several key statistics:

– There are 45,000 voluntary organisations in Scotland

– Involving around 130,000 paid staff and approximately 1.3 million volunteers

– The sector manages an income of £4.1 billion

Besides the admiration for the sheer number of volunteers in this country, the most informative aspect of the SCVO meeting was the overall realisation that the third sector is going to be a key ally in the coming years to meet key outcomes. With their willingness to adopt social media tools to communicate amongst themselves, for instance, the third sector can also offer inspiration in certain areas to the public sector. The Improvement Service will work with key stakeholders and partners from politicians to the private and the third sector in order to tackle the huge challenges facing local authorities. As in the end, regardless of which area of services in which you are involved there are three key principles for effective delivery and cooperation – communication, communication
and communication.

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