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June 15, 2011

How to speak truth unto power

It’s an age old dilemma for any organisation.  If you take Government funding and agree to deliver outcomes on their behalf, have you compromised your freedom and ability to speak out against Government policy?  Newly merged body Locality (DTA and bassac) has taken flak for its decision to get so close to the Coalition Government.  Locality director, Steve Wyler, argues that proximity to government also gives them an opportunity to speak truth unto power.  Testing times ahead.

Steve Wyler, chief executive of Locality

Charity will use commission’s formula to convey government ideas to community groups

The charity Locality, which has been asked by the government to “help the sector and communities to better understand the opportunities of the big society”, will adopt the definition of big society provided by Acevo.

In its role as a strategic partner to the Office for Civil Society, Locality has been asked to make sure community groups understand the government’s agenda. Other strategic partners have been given responsibilities in different areas.

Steve Wyler, chief executive of Locality, told Third Sector a “working definition” of the term was necessary in order for it to carry out its task.

He said the charity would use the definition (set out in full below) that was published in a report produced last month by the Commission on Big Society, a group set up by the chief executives body Acevo.

Wyler said the OCS had also asked Locality to identify any challenges faced by community groups.

He said Locality would carry out its role of helping communities to understand the big society by telling its members about the provisions in the Localism Bill and the progress of the Big Society Bank, and notifying them of new government funding programmes.

He added that it was equally important to make sure the government listened to criticisms from community groups.

“We will build up evidence about any obstacles that charities and communities face, and take that back to the Cabinet Office,” he said.

“Where things are going wrong we will be in a position to speak truth unto power, but we will also try to find solutions.

“We are campaigning for a moratorium on cuts, so that charities and community groups are given a right to reshape services before their funding is lost.”

He said he did not think Locality’s role as a strategic partner compromised the charity’s independence. “When we bid for the funding we put forward our own agenda and we will now be able to carry that out,” he said.

“The role of helping communities to understand the big society is an additional role to that.”
The Commission on Big Society’s definition

“A society in which power and responsibility have shifted: one in which, at every level in our national life, individuals and communities have more aspiration, power and capacity to take decisions and solve problems themselves, and where all of us take greater responsibility for ourselves, our communities and one another”