Deputy Mayor Asher Craig and I met with Sandra Meadows (CEO) and Sandy Hoare-Ruthven (Chair) of Voscur this morning.
We talked about the future of the voluntary community sector (VCS) in Bristol.
I have asked Voscur to take on the challenge of setting out the vision for what the VCS needs to be in five, 10, 15 years. This vision for a VCS should take into account the anticipated size, diversity, strengths and support needs of the city’s population. It needs to be a proactive vision that understands the role of the VCS, not as a gap filler that steps in when the public services withdraw, but rather as both and deliverer and evidence of a stronger more empowered society. The VCS represents more than service delivery. It represents local leadership, empowerment and in that sense liberation from dependency on big funders be they private or state. There is big politics in this.
Voscur had already done some great work. They pointed out Bristol’s VCS hasn’t had a strategy since the “Bristol Voluntary and Community Sector Strategy 2010-13”. But this strategy wasn’t fully implemented.
They talked about the need for a thriving VCS, not as an end in itself but as the essential means to a healthy, resilient society. We talked about the challenge of commissioning processes where service provision gets hoovered up by big outside providers and yet results in eth demise of local VCS organisations.
Once the strategy is finalised we will apply it to every aspect of our work. The way we spend public money, the way we intervene in the city and provide services must contribute to delivering the VCS we need.
You can read a longer article of some of my background thinking on the VCS here (pages 6-7)