Independence as a Principle of Voluntary Action - Developing a new story about who we are: the challenge for Voluntary action in Northern Ireland

Nick Acheson

    Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report

    Abstract

    The importance of independence as a principle of voluntary action: Independence, it is argued, is fundamental to the principle and practice of voluntary action and fundamental to the good society. Independence means, both a relative freedom from constraint and the freedom to “think, experiment, to uphold values and to challenge”. It operates at three interlocking and mutually reinforcing levels:1. it means individual organizations retaining the ability to set their own objectives and manage their own affairs.2. For value-based organizations independence also implies the ability to express those values in public by exercising the freedom to combine with others to represent collective interests of citizens in wider society.3. It depends on the effective telling of a wider story about its role in society that goes beyond a narrow defence of sectional interests and that links independence of voice with the broader interests of society as a whole. The threat:Market driven reforms to the welfare state combined with austerity budgets carry three risks:• Co-optation becomes a threat when partnership structures where voluntary agencies have a seat at the table are ignored or bypassed. • Instrumentalisation becomes a threat when voluntary agencies are seen wholly from the perspective of what they can do for government as in the shift from grant in aid to contracts.• Incorporation occurs when the identity of voluntary agencies becomes submerged in the government programmes they are helping to deliver.Resistance requires voluntary and community organizartions to have the collective capacity to resist external pressures determining their role and purpose and have the opportunities to make alternative collective acts of self-definition stick.The Northern Ireland challenge:Current Executive policy is pushing further neo-liberal reform of public services in the context of frozen or reducing budgets, while the main Assembly political parties show little interest in a wider role for voluntary action. A picture familiar from other parts of the world experiencing similar reforms is made more difficult in Northern Ireland by the communal nature of politics and the legacy of an earlier stage in the peace process. Voluntary agencies are increasingly seen for what they can do, not who they are or represent. The evidence points to five main issues:• The switch to building relationships on the basis of public procurement models from a trust-based partnership model;• The need to drive down costs is making collaboration on chosen terms harder and forcing organizations to become much more competitive;• Instead there has been a loss of control over the kinds of collaboration organizations are free to enter, excluding arrangements that do not meet immediate government funders’ objectives.• An ideological turn in some government departments towards a much narrower and more instrumental view of the role of voluntary organizations in public policy, driven in part by the role of political advisors and in part by what one informant identified as the ideological preferences of civil servants.• An atmosphere of fear and timidity among organizations coupled with a lack of capacity in the sector as a whole to develop new stories on what voluntary action is for. While not complete, the evidence shows processes of co-optation, instrumentalization and incorporation all well advanced. There is an urgent need to build on opportunities for voluntary and community organizations to develop the capacity to create a new story about who they are and what they represent that goes beyond delivering public services and supports collaboration and coalition-building based on shared values and overlapping missions.
    LanguageEnglish
    Number of pages17
    Publication statusPublished - 5 Jul 2013

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    instrumentalization
    threat
    reform
    public service
    Values
    budget
    government program
    peace process
    civil servant
    ability
    public support
    welfare state
    community
    evidence
    grant
    coalition
    public policy
    anxiety
    citizen
    politics

    Cite this

    @book{c075b053d8b64df7aab4029d1212556e,
    title = "Independence as a Principle of Voluntary Action - Developing a new story about who we are: the challenge for Voluntary action in Northern Ireland",
    abstract = "The importance of independence as a principle of voluntary action: Independence, it is argued, is fundamental to the principle and practice of voluntary action and fundamental to the good society. Independence means, both a relative freedom from constraint and the freedom to “think, experiment, to uphold values and to challenge”. It operates at three interlocking and mutually reinforcing levels:1. it means individual organizations retaining the ability to set their own objectives and manage their own affairs.2. For value-based organizations independence also implies the ability to express those values in public by exercising the freedom to combine with others to represent collective interests of citizens in wider society.3. It depends on the effective telling of a wider story about its role in society that goes beyond a narrow defence of sectional interests and that links independence of voice with the broader interests of society as a whole. The threat:Market driven reforms to the welfare state combined with austerity budgets carry three risks:• Co-optation becomes a threat when partnership structures where voluntary agencies have a seat at the table are ignored or bypassed. • Instrumentalisation becomes a threat when voluntary agencies are seen wholly from the perspective of what they can do for government as in the shift from grant in aid to contracts.• Incorporation occurs when the identity of voluntary agencies becomes submerged in the government programmes they are helping to deliver.Resistance requires voluntary and community organizartions to have the collective capacity to resist external pressures determining their role and purpose and have the opportunities to make alternative collective acts of self-definition stick.The Northern Ireland challenge:Current Executive policy is pushing further neo-liberal reform of public services in the context of frozen or reducing budgets, while the main Assembly political parties show little interest in a wider role for voluntary action. A picture familiar from other parts of the world experiencing similar reforms is made more difficult in Northern Ireland by the communal nature of politics and the legacy of an earlier stage in the peace process. Voluntary agencies are increasingly seen for what they can do, not who they are or represent. The evidence points to five main issues:• The switch to building relationships on the basis of public procurement models from a trust-based partnership model;• The need to drive down costs is making collaboration on chosen terms harder and forcing organizations to become much more competitive;• Instead there has been a loss of control over the kinds of collaboration organizations are free to enter, excluding arrangements that do not meet immediate government funders’ objectives.• An ideological turn in some government departments towards a much narrower and more instrumental view of the role of voluntary organizations in public policy, driven in part by the role of political advisors and in part by what one informant identified as the ideological preferences of civil servants.• An atmosphere of fear and timidity among organizations coupled with a lack of capacity in the sector as a whole to develop new stories on what voluntary action is for. While not complete, the evidence shows processes of co-optation, instrumentalization and incorporation all well advanced. There is an urgent need to build on opportunities for voluntary and community organizations to develop the capacity to create a new story about who they are and what they represent that goes beyond delivering public services and supports collaboration and coalition-building based on shared values and overlapping missions.",
    author = "Nick Acheson",
    note = "Reference text: Acheson, N., E. Cairns, M. Stringer, A. Williamson (2007) Voluntary Action and Community Relations in Northern Ireland, Coleraine: Centre for Voluntary Action Studies Acheson, N. (2009) ‘Northern Ireland and the Independence of the Voluntary Sector’ in M. Smerdon (ed) The First Principle of Voluntary Action: essays on the independence of the voluntary sector in Canada, England, Germany, Northern Ireland, Scotland, United States of America and Wales, London: the Baring Foundaton Acheson, N. 2010. “Welfare State Reform, Compacts and Restructuring Relations between the State and the Voluntary Sector: Reflections on Northern Ireland experience.” Voluntary Sector Review 1 (2): 175-192. Almond, G.A. and S. Verba (1963) The Civic Culture: Political Attitudes and Democracy in Five Nations, Princeton University Press Beveridge, W. (1948) Voluntary Action: a Report on the Methods of Social Advance, London: Allen and Unwin Buckingham, H. (2012) “Capturing Diversity: a typology of third sector organisations’, responses to contracting based on empirical evidence from homelessness services.” Journal of Social Policy 41 (3): 569-89. Casey, J., B. Dalton, R. Melville, J. Onyx (2010) ‘Strengthening Government non-profit relations: International Experiences with Compacts’, Voluntary Sector Review 1 (1) 59-76 Deakin, N. and J. Kershaw (1996) Meeting the Challenge of Change: Voluntary Action into the 21st Century: the report of the commission on the future of the voluntary sector, London: National Council for Voluntary Action De Tocqueville, A. (1835 and 2003) Democracy in America, London: Penguin Books Devine, P., G. Kelly and G. Robinson. 2011. An Age of Change? Community Relations in Northern Ireland. ARK research update 72, Belfast: ARK publications Knight, B. (1993) Voluntary Action, Newcastle-upon Tyne: Centris Laforest, R. (ed) (2013) The Recession and Beyond: Taking Stock of Evolving Government-Nonprofit Relationships, Montreal: McGill and Queens University Press Macmillan, R. (2012) “The Great Unsettlement- Lets Talk About It” blog entry 05/03/2012 Third Sector Research Centre http://www.tsrc.ac.uk/Blog/tabid/504/EntryId/29/The-great-unsettlement-let-s-talk-about-it.aspx (downloaded 15/03/13) Morison, (2001) ‘The Government-Voluntary Sector compacts: Governance, Governability and Civil Society’, Journal of Law and Society 27 (2) 98-132 NCVO (2012) The UK Civil Society Almanac, London: National Council for Voluntary Organizations Nolan, P. (2012) Northern Ireland Peace Monitoring Report, Number one. Belfast: Community Relations Council. Nolan, P. (2013) Northern Ireland Peace Monitoring Report, Number two. Belfast: Community Relations Council. Northern Ireland Executive. 2011. Programme for Government and Budget 2011-2015. Belfast: Northern Ireland Executive. http://www.northernireland.gov.uk/index/programme-for-government-and-budget-v1.htm (accessed 15/05/2012). NICVA (2010) Impact of the Recession: Case Studies from the Voluntary and Community Sector, Belfast: Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action NICVA (2012) Sate of the Sector VI, Belfast: Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action Panel on the Independence of the Voluntary Sector (2012) Independence Under Threat: the Voluntary Sector in 2013, London: the Baring Foundation http://www.baringfoundation.org.uk/IndependenceUnderThreat.pdf (downloaded 03/04/2013) Smerdon, M. (2007) Speech at the launch of Pharoah, C. Sources of Strength: an Analysis of the the STVS – Independence Programme, the Baring Foundation http://www.baringfoundation.org.uk/SOSspeechMS.pdf (downloaded 03/04/2013) Smerdon, M. (2009) ‘Introduction’ in M. Smerdon (ed) The First Principle of Voluntary Action: essays on the independence of the voluntary sector in Canada, England, Germany, Northern Ireland, Scotland, United States of America and Wales, London: the Baring Foundation Rees, J. D. Mullins, T. Bovaird (2012) Partnership Working, Working Paper no 88, Birmingham: Third Sector Research Centre Rees, J., R. Taylor, C. Damm (2013) Does Sector Matter? Understanding the Experience of Providers in the Work Programme, Working Paper no 92, Birmingham: Third Sector Research Centre Rochester, C., M. Zimmeck (2013) ‘2012 – Another Grim Year for Voluntary Action’ Voluntary Action History Society blog, http://www.vahs.org.uk/2013/01/feature-1/ (downloaded 15/03/2013) Teasdale, S., H. Buckingham, J. Rees (2012) Is the Third Sector being Overwhelmed by the State and the Market?, Third Sectors Futures Dialogue: Big Picture 4, Birmingham: Third Sector Research Centre White, D. (2012) ‘Interest Representation and Organisation in Civil Society: Ontario and Quebec Compared’, British Journal of Canadian Studies 25 (2) 199-230 Wilding, K. (2013) Biting the Hand that Used to Feed, blog 23/01/2013 http://www.ncvo-vol.org.uk/networking-discussions/blogs/209/13/01/23/biting-hand-used-feed (downloaded 03/04/2013) Williamson, A., D. Scott, P. Halfpenny (2000) ‘ Rebuilding Civil Society in Northern Ireland: the Community and Voluntary Sector’s Contribution to the European Union’s Peace and Reconciliation Distract Partnership Programme, Policy & Politics 288 (1) 49-66",
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    N1 - Reference text: Acheson, N., E. Cairns, M. Stringer, A. Williamson (2007) Voluntary Action and Community Relations in Northern Ireland, Coleraine: Centre for Voluntary Action Studies Acheson, N. (2009) ‘Northern Ireland and the Independence of the Voluntary Sector’ in M. Smerdon (ed) The First Principle of Voluntary Action: essays on the independence of the voluntary sector in Canada, England, Germany, Northern Ireland, Scotland, United States of America and Wales, London: the Baring Foundaton Acheson, N. 2010. “Welfare State Reform, Compacts and Restructuring Relations between the State and the Voluntary Sector: Reflections on Northern Ireland experience.” Voluntary Sector Review 1 (2): 175-192. Almond, G.A. and S. Verba (1963) The Civic Culture: Political Attitudes and Democracy in Five Nations, Princeton University Press Beveridge, W. (1948) Voluntary Action: a Report on the Methods of Social Advance, London: Allen and Unwin Buckingham, H. (2012) “Capturing Diversity: a typology of third sector organisations’, responses to contracting based on empirical evidence from homelessness services.” Journal of Social Policy 41 (3): 569-89. Casey, J., B. Dalton, R. Melville, J. Onyx (2010) ‘Strengthening Government non-profit relations: International Experiences with Compacts’, Voluntary Sector Review 1 (1) 59-76 Deakin, N. and J. Kershaw (1996) Meeting the Challenge of Change: Voluntary Action into the 21st Century: the report of the commission on the future of the voluntary sector, London: National Council for Voluntary Action De Tocqueville, A. (1835 and 2003) Democracy in America, London: Penguin Books Devine, P., G. Kelly and G. Robinson. 2011. An Age of Change? Community Relations in Northern Ireland. ARK research update 72, Belfast: ARK publications Knight, B. (1993) Voluntary Action, Newcastle-upon Tyne: Centris Laforest, R. (ed) (2013) The Recession and Beyond: Taking Stock of Evolving Government-Nonprofit Relationships, Montreal: McGill and Queens University Press Macmillan, R. (2012) “The Great Unsettlement- Lets Talk About It” blog entry 05/03/2012 Third Sector Research Centre http://www.tsrc.ac.uk/Blog/tabid/504/EntryId/29/The-great-unsettlement-let-s-talk-about-it.aspx (downloaded 15/03/13) Morison, (2001) ‘The Government-Voluntary Sector compacts: Governance, Governability and Civil Society’, Journal of Law and Society 27 (2) 98-132 NCVO (2012) The UK Civil Society Almanac, London: National Council for Voluntary Organizations Nolan, P. (2012) Northern Ireland Peace Monitoring Report, Number one. Belfast: Community Relations Council. Nolan, P. (2013) Northern Ireland Peace Monitoring Report, Number two. Belfast: Community Relations Council. Northern Ireland Executive. 2011. Programme for Government and Budget 2011-2015. Belfast: Northern Ireland Executive. http://www.northernireland.gov.uk/index/programme-for-government-and-budget-v1.htm (accessed 15/05/2012). NICVA (2010) Impact of the Recession: Case Studies from the Voluntary and Community Sector, Belfast: Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action NICVA (2012) Sate of the Sector VI, Belfast: Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action Panel on the Independence of the Voluntary Sector (2012) Independence Under Threat: the Voluntary Sector in 2013, London: the Baring Foundation http://www.baringfoundation.org.uk/IndependenceUnderThreat.pdf (downloaded 03/04/2013) Smerdon, M. (2007) Speech at the launch of Pharoah, C. Sources of Strength: an Analysis of the the STVS – Independence Programme, the Baring Foundation http://www.baringfoundation.org.uk/SOSspeechMS.pdf (downloaded 03/04/2013) Smerdon, M. (2009) ‘Introduction’ in M. Smerdon (ed) The First Principle of Voluntary Action: essays on the independence of the voluntary sector in Canada, England, Germany, Northern Ireland, Scotland, United States of America and Wales, London: the Baring Foundation Rees, J. D. Mullins, T. Bovaird (2012) Partnership Working, Working Paper no 88, Birmingham: Third Sector Research Centre Rees, J., R. Taylor, C. Damm (2013) Does Sector Matter? Understanding the Experience of Providers in the Work Programme, Working Paper no 92, Birmingham: Third Sector Research Centre Rochester, C., M. Zimmeck (2013) ‘2012 – Another Grim Year for Voluntary Action’ Voluntary Action History Society blog, http://www.vahs.org.uk/2013/01/feature-1/ (downloaded 15/03/2013) Teasdale, S., H. Buckingham, J. Rees (2012) Is the Third Sector being Overwhelmed by the State and the Market?, Third Sectors Futures Dialogue: Big Picture 4, Birmingham: Third Sector Research Centre White, D. (2012) ‘Interest Representation and Organisation in Civil Society: Ontario and Quebec Compared’, British Journal of Canadian Studies 25 (2) 199-230 Wilding, K. (2013) Biting the Hand that Used to Feed, blog 23/01/2013 http://www.ncvo-vol.org.uk/networking-discussions/blogs/209/13/01/23/biting-hand-used-feed (downloaded 03/04/2013) Williamson, A., D. Scott, P. Halfpenny (2000) ‘ Rebuilding Civil Society in Northern Ireland: the Community and Voluntary Sector’s Contribution to the European Union’s Peace and Reconciliation Distract Partnership Programme, Policy & Politics 288 (1) 49-66

    PY - 2013/7/5

    Y1 - 2013/7/5

    N2 - The importance of independence as a principle of voluntary action: Independence, it is argued, is fundamental to the principle and practice of voluntary action and fundamental to the good society. Independence means, both a relative freedom from constraint and the freedom to “think, experiment, to uphold values and to challenge”. It operates at three interlocking and mutually reinforcing levels:1. it means individual organizations retaining the ability to set their own objectives and manage their own affairs.2. For value-based organizations independence also implies the ability to express those values in public by exercising the freedom to combine with others to represent collective interests of citizens in wider society.3. It depends on the effective telling of a wider story about its role in society that goes beyond a narrow defence of sectional interests and that links independence of voice with the broader interests of society as a whole. The threat:Market driven reforms to the welfare state combined with austerity budgets carry three risks:• Co-optation becomes a threat when partnership structures where voluntary agencies have a seat at the table are ignored or bypassed. • Instrumentalisation becomes a threat when voluntary agencies are seen wholly from the perspective of what they can do for government as in the shift from grant in aid to contracts.• Incorporation occurs when the identity of voluntary agencies becomes submerged in the government programmes they are helping to deliver.Resistance requires voluntary and community organizartions to have the collective capacity to resist external pressures determining their role and purpose and have the opportunities to make alternative collective acts of self-definition stick.The Northern Ireland challenge:Current Executive policy is pushing further neo-liberal reform of public services in the context of frozen or reducing budgets, while the main Assembly political parties show little interest in a wider role for voluntary action. A picture familiar from other parts of the world experiencing similar reforms is made more difficult in Northern Ireland by the communal nature of politics and the legacy of an earlier stage in the peace process. Voluntary agencies are increasingly seen for what they can do, not who they are or represent. The evidence points to five main issues:• The switch to building relationships on the basis of public procurement models from a trust-based partnership model;• The need to drive down costs is making collaboration on chosen terms harder and forcing organizations to become much more competitive;• Instead there has been a loss of control over the kinds of collaboration organizations are free to enter, excluding arrangements that do not meet immediate government funders’ objectives.• An ideological turn in some government departments towards a much narrower and more instrumental view of the role of voluntary organizations in public policy, driven in part by the role of political advisors and in part by what one informant identified as the ideological preferences of civil servants.• An atmosphere of fear and timidity among organizations coupled with a lack of capacity in the sector as a whole to develop new stories on what voluntary action is for. While not complete, the evidence shows processes of co-optation, instrumentalization and incorporation all well advanced. There is an urgent need to build on opportunities for voluntary and community organizations to develop the capacity to create a new story about who they are and what they represent that goes beyond delivering public services and supports collaboration and coalition-building based on shared values and overlapping missions.

    AB - The importance of independence as a principle of voluntary action: Independence, it is argued, is fundamental to the principle and practice of voluntary action and fundamental to the good society. Independence means, both a relative freedom from constraint and the freedom to “think, experiment, to uphold values and to challenge”. It operates at three interlocking and mutually reinforcing levels:1. it means individual organizations retaining the ability to set their own objectives and manage their own affairs.2. For value-based organizations independence also implies the ability to express those values in public by exercising the freedom to combine with others to represent collective interests of citizens in wider society.3. It depends on the effective telling of a wider story about its role in society that goes beyond a narrow defence of sectional interests and that links independence of voice with the broader interests of society as a whole. The threat:Market driven reforms to the welfare state combined with austerity budgets carry three risks:• Co-optation becomes a threat when partnership structures where voluntary agencies have a seat at the table are ignored or bypassed. • Instrumentalisation becomes a threat when voluntary agencies are seen wholly from the perspective of what they can do for government as in the shift from grant in aid to contracts.• Incorporation occurs when the identity of voluntary agencies becomes submerged in the government programmes they are helping to deliver.Resistance requires voluntary and community organizartions to have the collective capacity to resist external pressures determining their role and purpose and have the opportunities to make alternative collective acts of self-definition stick.The Northern Ireland challenge:Current Executive policy is pushing further neo-liberal reform of public services in the context of frozen or reducing budgets, while the main Assembly political parties show little interest in a wider role for voluntary action. A picture familiar from other parts of the world experiencing similar reforms is made more difficult in Northern Ireland by the communal nature of politics and the legacy of an earlier stage in the peace process. Voluntary agencies are increasingly seen for what they can do, not who they are or represent. The evidence points to five main issues:• The switch to building relationships on the basis of public procurement models from a trust-based partnership model;• The need to drive down costs is making collaboration on chosen terms harder and forcing organizations to become much more competitive;• Instead there has been a loss of control over the kinds of collaboration organizations are free to enter, excluding arrangements that do not meet immediate government funders’ objectives.• An ideological turn in some government departments towards a much narrower and more instrumental view of the role of voluntary organizations in public policy, driven in part by the role of political advisors and in part by what one informant identified as the ideological preferences of civil servants.• An atmosphere of fear and timidity among organizations coupled with a lack of capacity in the sector as a whole to develop new stories on what voluntary action is for. While not complete, the evidence shows processes of co-optation, instrumentalization and incorporation all well advanced. There is an urgent need to build on opportunities for voluntary and community organizations to develop the capacity to create a new story about who they are and what they represent that goes beyond delivering public services and supports collaboration and coalition-building based on shared values and overlapping missions.

    M3 - Commissioned report

    BT - Independence as a Principle of Voluntary Action - Developing a new story about who we are: the challenge for Voluntary action in Northern Ireland

    ER -