Joint Forum Strategy Day

The new Voluntary and Community Sector Joint Forum panel has now been appointed and the had their inaugural meeting on 19 May in Girdwood Community Hub. 

The new panel are:

-       Anne McVicker – WRDA (second term)

-       Anne-Marie McClure – Start360

-       Brendan Heaney – Diabetes NI

-       Chris Quinn – Northern Ireland Youth Forum (second term)

-       Clare Anne Magee – Carers NI (second term)

-       Craig McGuicken – NI Environment Link

-       David Smyth – Evangelical Alliance NI

-       Denise Hayward – Volunteer Now

-       Ellen Finlay – Children in NI

-       Emma Patterson Bennett – Equality Coalition

-       Glenda Davies – Sandy Row Community Forum (second term)

-       Jonny Currie – East Belfast Community Development Agency (second term)

-       Kate Clifford – Rural Community Network (second term)

-       Kevin Murphy – Voluntary Arts Ireland (second term)

-       Loraine Griffin – COSTA

If you have an issue of relevance to the Forum or would like to use to Forum to raise a concern you have, please do not hesitate to contact one of the panel members or the NICVA Secretariat ([email protected] or [email protected]).

Strategy meeting

The May meeting was a strategy meeting with the objective of reviewing how the Forum had been working to date and informing a 12-18 month workplan for the Forum to focus on. The meeting was facilitated by Stephen McGowan from the Strategic Investment Board (SIB).

The strategy workshop was based around three main themes: key issues facing the sector over the next five years, what should be the key areas of focus of the next twelve months, and how we can best align the objectives of the Joint Forum with the areas of focus. Attendees worked in groups to discuss these which were then fed back to the room.

The key issues facing the sector focused on uncertainty of the budget and the issues we face because of the political impasse. Attendees also stressed that in uncertain difficult times, there was a disappointing level of flexibility from government when working with voluntary and community sector organisations. How the public and voluntary and community sectors work together was also raised as a concern with some voluntary and community sector attendees stating that the value the sector brings to the delivery of government targets and wider social impact is not fully understood or appreciated. Therefore, the sector is often disadvantaged when difficult decisions have to be made. Attendees raised concerns that the machinery of government is not conducive to collaborating so even when there are keen and enthusiastic civil servants, they are constrained by what is possible. The implementation of welfare reform was also considered a key issue facing the sector and our service users.

When discussion focused on how we best align the objectives of the Joint Forum with the work that must be carried out, there were wide ranging suggestions on how we best do it. Attendees raised ideas such as changes to the format of the meetings to make them more discussion focused with more actionable points and substantive work being done outside of the Forum meetings. Communication was cited as a key area of improvement with an onus on all members of the Joint Forum to consider how best they can feedback the work of the Forum to their networks. Communication of the successes should be better communicated and best practice in govt/sector collaboration showcased as well as awareness raised of how the Forum can be used. Furthermore, there needed to be more opportunities for the wider sector to feed into and inform the Forum’s agenda. Ideas included a more digital focus with the meeting being live tweeted so individuals from the sector could feed into the meeting as it was happening. Public sector representatives discussed how best they could use their intranet to raise awareness of the Forum. Thematic meetings were suggested so that the Public Sector Group could better plan for representation from senior civil servants responsible for policy areas. 

The idea of an innovation lab was floated on how best to support the sector with both sectors represented. Attendees welcomed the review that was being carried out on the Joint Forum ensuring that it was the value of the Forum was being considered.

With regards to live issues for the sector over the next 12 months, attendees again discussed the opportunity the Joint Forum review presented and the work undertaken by the CAT team with regards to the review of the concordat. Second term Joint Forum members stated that the strategy meeting taking place and a 12-18 month workplan was progress and could make it easier for more senior members of government to attend. There was consensus that once the review was completed, the onus was on all members to sell it to the sector and senior government officials. It was suggested that the Joint Forum could focus on protocols or ways of working best practice between government and the sector and develop demonstration projects which implement best practice in govt/voluntary and community sector working. This was in response to concerns raised about engagement and consultation to date. It was also suggested that working between the sector and government could be made easier if interfaces and engagement channels could be mapped and then subsequently improved if necessary.

Concluding the meeting, the Secretariats committed to writing up the suggestions and issues raised. The voluntary and community sector group agreed to meet before July to develop an options paper on what they believe the Joint Forum should prioritise.

 

 

 

 

 

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