With charities under the miscroscope following the high profile Presidents Club scandal, Co-operatives UK's Linda Barlow examines whether the co-operative consortium model offers a more beneficial route for charities to achieve their goals and help restore public confidence.
It’s been a turbulent week in the world of charity. It started on a high as the Duke of Cambridge praised the work of charities during his speech at the Charity Commission’s annual public meeting. But as the events surrounding the Presidents Club unfolded, many of those working in the sector were left stunned while public perception and trust, the very things the Charity Commission is tasked with maintaining, were severely dented.
Going back to the Duke of Cambridge’s speech, there is one point on which he was quite clear. Charities can meet the challenge of achieving their purpose in an environment where funding is in short supply by working together. ‘Collaborate’ is the word he used.
As we all know, collaboration means to work jointly on an activity or project. Co-operation, albeit it’s synonym, goes a little further that simply 'working together'. Co-operation invites people or organisations with similar values and a shared purpose to work together on equal terms – one member, one vote.
Through co-operation, charities can demonstrate public benefit and at the same time improve how the public sees them. As charities battle to do more on ever decreasing funding streams it surely makes sense for charities with similar aims and beneficiaries to co-operate; to deliver joint projects; to go that extra mile on a project that is constrained by limits on funding; to share back office services.
A co-operative consortium is the obvious choice for charities that wish to come together to co-operate. A consortium can be established under any legal form and is a co-operative of user members that come together to pool resources and work together on projects. Consortia exist in every business sector from agriculture to IT.
Some charities have already seen the value in creating co-operative consortia and are doing great work creating a more joined up approach in adult care. Pascal (Lincolnshire) and REACT in Yorkshire, which are consortia of Age Concern charities providing adult care, services and support for older people enabling them to have choice, independence and a higher quality of life. A co-operative approach has helped Age Concern charities who are members of REACT to come together to create a Home for Hospital Service - helping the elderly make a smooth transition home from a hospital stay.