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October 21, 2009

Voluntary Action Scotland aim high

Although not part of the planned activity of Supporting Voluntary Action, a development which will undoubtedly prove to be of major significance took place earlier this year. The CVS network, a key part of the support infrastructure, voted to break away from SCVO and set up their own organisation. Last week Voluntary Action Scotland held its first conference. They have has set themselves an ambitious programme

Voluntary Action Scotland – Walking Tall (an extract from report- Collaborating for a Better Future, Oct 09)

We aspire to be a strong, national body which promotes, supports, develops and represents member organisations to deliver better outcomes in our local communities. This will take time, but we’re already considering how we can fast-track certain elements of this, other than the move to a wider partnership model – as discussed extensively within this report. As we approach the end of the CVS and VC networks three year funding agreement with the Scottish Government, we need to ensure our members are in a strong position to negotiate continued investment, the kind of investment which will both support the Government’s strategic objectives and our own local priorities to build strong communities in every part of Scotland.

Going forward, we believe there are a number of areas of work where VAS could be concerned. The list below is an early indication of where we think VAS could go. As we continue to develop, we will be engaging with our members to ensure we’re doing the things that matter and that make a difference to our members.

Key, potential roles for Voluntary Action Scotland:

1. Strong, single voice at national level which is made up of local voices and grass roots experience, for example giving evidence in Parliament;

2. The ability to access national, strategic tables and seek an audience with key policy makers/influencers and strategic partners e.g. Scottish Government, COSLA, SOLACE, DInC Forum, Third Sector Task Group, SVA Management Group and National

Intermediaries Network;
3. The national voice will only ever represent the needs of local infrastructure – there can be no conflict of interest because VAS will not deliver services;

4. Key ‘interface’ for Scottish Government departments to allow fast, efficient access to local infrastructure across every part of Scotland;

5. Ability to get intelligence and information about the local picture to national tables quickly, through a single channel to provide early warning of a crisis, communicate the impact of policy decisions and implementation and influence policy development;

6. VAS can promote and co-ordinate collaborative working and compete for national contracts which can be delivered by local infrastructure, a considerably more attractive proposition for national bodies;

7. CPPs are not able to receive monies, so opportunities may exist for VAS to receive monies to distribute through local interfaces;

8. Policy and research co-ordination and facilitation on behalf of members;

9. Commission support services from best provider, achieving economies of scale, overseeing contract performance and ensuring customer satisfaction;

10. National marketing/PR co-ordination for local infrastructure;

11. Facilitating networking, promoting sharing of information and expertise amongst members;

12. Support the membership to adopt quality standards and uphold them;

13. Brand management and promotion;

14. Peer support and mentoring within network;

15. Organising network meetings and conference(s);

16. Facilitate communities of practice;

17. If working according to plan, VAS should be able to procure network support services for less money than currently allocated – any savings should go directly to local interfaces to invest in local service delivery;

18. VAS could ‘own’ things on behalf of local infrastructure and will always allow members to decide what happens with such assets – things like toolkits, websites, databases, nationally-developed learning resources etc.

19. VAS could ‘own’ the infrastructure share of other resources, e.g. SVA products, and ensure they are fit for local need, maintained to continue to meet local need and cannot be changed without agreement of local infrastructure. This presents a simpler, more attractive model for national agencies such as Big Lottery, SCVO etc.;

20. Ensure strategic national relationships are to benefit members, not VAS – because VAS will not deliver services; it cannot compete with its own members – this must be a fundamental principle to ensure support and trust of prospective membership;

21. Members will decide how VAS spends any generated income, including any distribution back to members;

22. There is a role for VAS to promote the move to interfaces and to support organisations to establish the best interface arrangements possible in their area.

We hope the above list gives a good sense of some of the opportunities that lie ahead for VAS, and by definition, our members. VAS’s Directors are excited about these opportunities and we look forward to discussing them with members and partners as we go forward.