Project launches to 'rebalance relationship' between large and small charities

Sector bodies have come together to launch a new project, designed to rebalance the relationship between large and small charities in public services.

The NCVO, ACEVO and Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales plan to explore how voluntary organisations of different sizes can work better together in bidding for and delivering public services.

It follows concerns that smaller organisations are being 'squeezed out' of public service delivery, in part by practices of larger organisations, as well as by commissioning and procurement processes.

There have also been concerns that as a result, many small organisations are struggling to survive and are in some cases facing closure.

The project, titled Rebalancing the Relationship, aims to explore the extent to which this is true, and to establish any drivers behind it.

It will also look ‘under the bonnet’ of current bidding and commissioning practices. A call for evidence, which will be launched in coming weeks, will seek views from the sector on this. The evidence, combined with further research, will form the basis of a research report expected in the autumn.

The report will inform a number of events with voluntary organisations to help develop recommendations to improve current practices, which will be the subject of a consultation with the sector, ahead of a final report early next year.

While the project will consider the wider commissioning environment, the partners expect the focus of their recommendations to be on how organisations themselves can take action to improve how they work with others.

The work will be overseen by a steering group consisting of project partners and individuals with expertise in leading small and large voluntary organisations.

To fund the project, Lloyds Bank Foundation is providing a grant of £85,700. NCVO will receive £62,000, while ACEVO will receive £24,000. NCVO said it will be contributing £22,000 in kind.

Commenting, NCVO chief executive, Sir Stuart Etherington said: “For the best outcomes for people using public services, we need a system that allows a range of organisations to flourish and deliver high quality services.

“We want to look under the bonnet of current commissioning practices to explore the issues faced by organisations of all sizes. We will then work with voluntary organisations to explore new ways of cooperating to ensure the long-term sustainability of organisations of all sizes across the voluntary sector delivering public services.”

ACEVO chief executive, Vicky Browning added: “Many ACEVO members tell us that one of their biggest challenges is a commissioning environment that doesn’t meet the needs of their organisation, and by extension the needs of the people they support.

“Leaders of voluntary organisations have a vital role to play in driving change and modelling new ways of working to create a more balanced system. We are excited to work with NCVO and Lloyds Bank Foundation to explore this issue together.”

A wider advisory group will be asked to provide feedback and advice to the project, and partners are also asking those who would like to express an interest in joining the advisory group to email

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