Monday, 15 November 2010

The power of the third sector - Wendy Lee, Professional Director

Since joining the third sector, I have had a strong and consistent message from our director Anita Kerwin-Nye regarding the unique expertise and position of the third sector. As a long term public sector professional, I felt the need to question this assertion; my feelings overwhelmingly told me that practitioners at the coal face make the difference – they really do! They have the expertise, the knowledge, the skills...

....though there is something missing.

In the public sector, there are amazing leaders and managers communicating the issue, networking, supporting their staff; who still manage, despite having the weight of the NHS machine on their shoulders, to have children and families at their heart. There are amazing practitioners, working with children, gifted in skills and expertise.

As a public sector worker, I spend time trying to avoid the constraints within which I found myself working, bending or working around rules (I confess – I didn’t go to the mandatory fire lectures on how to get sick people out of hospitals or the one on how to fit a cannualar). I spent a lot of time arguing with people about systems that didn’t work, a lot of time persuading, negotiating...I was told on more than one occasion that I was “difficult!” Hard to believe, I know!

What is missing for public sector workers is time and freedom. This is where the third sector comes into its own; it is not constrained by systems to ration, narrow or pigeon hole.

The third sector can and does employ a range of individuals with a range of expertise, not only in speech, language and communication needs, but in managing projects, partners, marketing, press and public affairs...collaborative working at its best.

They have a national perspective with strategic and policy expertise enabling them to knock on the door of MPs and say – think about this – it will make a difference – here’s the evidence – this is how it can work.

For practitioners the day job is providing a service, working with children and families. For the third sector, the day job is to listen to grass roots workers and families and to try and make the situation easier, smoother – better for children, families and for practitioners.

Anita said at our parliamentary event that the Hello campaign would not have happened without the third sector. She is absolutely right. She also said that the expertise needed was in that room – and for me, this is the key.

The Hello campaign is much more than a national campaign – as with communication, it is everybody’s business. People in that room were professionals, third sector, businesses, politicians, families and children – it is the combined and collaborative efforts of all that will turn the campaign into the national and local success it absolutely needs to be.

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