ACEVO’s policy work update

Our policy officer Maisie Hulbert provides updates on the policy work that has been going on at ACEVO.

As for everyone, the last few months at ACEVO have been largely dominated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Our working patterns have changed and as the priorities of our members have shifted, so have ours. This has meant a big focus for the policy team on cross-sector infrastructure body campaigns and rolling out helpful digital events and resources for our members. There hasn’t been much room to look ahead, so I wanted to outline the decisions and progress on our other policy work.

Of course, the crisis response to Covid-19 remains a priority for us, but we want to start looking ahead to a stronger, healthier civil society, and learning from this experience wherever we can. We have seen the sector mobilise and co-operate like never before and some of these new behaviours will be a huge benefit in the future, if we can build them into our ways of working. You can read a blog by our CEO Vicky here on how we might #BuildBackBetter, so talk to us if you have ideas. Our members can use our new online community to share thoughts, too – sign up here.

Ongoing policy work

Diversity and inclusion

Covid-19 has impacted everyone, but it hasn’t impacted everyone equally. We have seen the virus affect BAME groups disproportionately, and reports of how the pandemic will widen inequalities. The sector needs to work more directly to tackle inequalities of all kinds. Diversity and inclusion are at the heart of that goal, and our policy work in this area has been particularly busy.

At the start of the pandemic and lockdown, we chose to delay the launch of the report from the Making Diversity Count project in partnership with Voice4Change England. We felt that the target audience for this work would struggle to find the headspace necessary to respond meaningfully. Instead of the planned event to launch the report, we ran a webinar exploring how organisations can respond equitably to the pandemic; you can find a summary of the event here. Our CEO Vicky Browning has also signed the open letter coordinated by Charity So White calling for the 20% of the £370m due to be distributed by the NLCF to be ringfenced for BAME-led specialist organisations. You can read a blog about that decision here.

In light of the specific inequalities BAME communities will be experiencing it is more important than ever that the sector takes brave steps to implement change. We will now be launching the report from Making Diversity Count in the week commencing Monday 15 June. We will be running a webinar soon after the launch to explore the findings and take questions from readers.

Earlier in the year I also got in touch with all the signatories to our racial diversity leadership principles, asking them for an update on their progress in terms of policies and actions against the principles, by 31 March. We have now extended that deadline to 30 June. You can read the principles and see some examples of how organisations have begun to implement new procedures here; email me directly if you’d like to become a signatory.

We’ve also started working with disability inclusion consultants Zara Todd and Ellie Munro, exploring how ACEVO can be more inclusive and representative for disabled CEOs in our membership, and across our staff team and board. We had paused this work due to the pandemic, but Zara and Ellie are now conducting desk-based research and interviews with members of staff and trustees to look at ACEVO’s internal processes. We will be expanding this work out to explore the experiences of disabled members and non-members later in the year; if you have any questions about this work, please let me know.

Commissioning

ACEVO is working in partnership with NCVO and the Lloyds Bank Foundation on the Rebalancing the Relationship project. This project explores competition and collaboration between voluntary sector organisations of all kinds, and creating an enabling environment for all organisations to play their part. We were originally planning to launch the final report in June, with engagement activities over March and April; however due to coronavirus this has been put on hold.

We don’t have a fixed date to relaunch this work at the moment – however, if you are having experiences of commissioning or contracting during the pandemic that you would like to share, please email me directly. This could be challenges around contracts, loss of income, or positive engagement with other organisations, but if you have anything you’d like to share it would be useful to have your insights to help inform the specific work of this project when it resumes.

Mental health and wellbeing

We launched a project last year in partnership with Mental Health First Aid, forming a working group to explore issues surrounding CEO and staff mental health. The working group have met twice, and will meet again virtually in June, looking back at our discussions so far and thinking about how things might have changed. Social distancing, loneliness and isolation have been sudden challenges for many people during this time, and we have also seen CEOs and leaders experiencing high levels of anxiety about the future of their organisation and the people within it – themselves included. Looking to the future, rebuilding mentally healthy and safe workplaces for people as we recover from this period is a priority – and those plans must include support for the people at the top of the tree. If you want to share any experiences about your own wellbeing or that of your workforce during this time, please do contact me directly – all reflections, resources and experiences are helpful at the moment. You can also use ACEVO’s Talk to Us service if you need a sounding board or someone to chat to.

Fair regulation

Finally, ACEVO has continued to focus on the importance of fair, transparent and enabling regulation throughout the crisis. Alongside other membership bodies and through conversation with the Charity Commission we have helped to gain clarity and assurances around serious incident reporting, enabling digital meetings, and financial challenges. You can download our briefing for the Charity Commission here, and find out more about regulation at the moment on the Charity Commission’s Q&A page. If you need further clarity on any regulatory issues, please contact Kristiana Wrixon, our head of policy.

If you have any questions about ACEVO’s ongoing policy work in other areas, please just get in touch.

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