This report was launched in the House of Commons on 20th January. It is a report of the “Independent Commission on the future of local infrastructure”. It highlights the role local infrastructure plays in supporting the local sector.
It has recommendations for a whole range of people, but what is of interest is that it emphasises the strength of the local sector (some 160,000 organisations are part of the networks supported at local level) and that the role and functions of local infrastructure organisations reflects very much the environment in which we now find ourselves – with the language used being about linking, support, enabling, building, inclusion and voice.
Local infrastructure in a city like Leeds is complex, and it means voluntary action, specialist networks and forums, local branches of national agencies, and specialist agencies supporting others in the same field.
The launch – coincidentally – was on the same day as Democracy Day, the 750th anniversary of our first (Simon de Montfort) parliament, and it seemed somehow fitting that our long journey towards democracy has not yet come to an end. Magna Carta, after all, may have been the first step on the road, but it only extended decision making to the barons!
What is clear is that local infrastructure is an essential element in bringing about change, as long as we are on the side of change, and not on the side of keeping things as they are. There are strong recommendations for infrastructure bodies, and these include:
- Ensuring we have the skills available to us to navigate change, enable good management, focus scarce resources, demonstrate value;
- Focus our “offer” more on brokering relationships;
- Promote and support other socially active groups, work in solidarity across regions and districts;
- Demonstrate social value and economic contribution and communicate your impact;
- Insist on your seat at the local table in matters which affect local communities.
Likewise there are recommendations for local authorities, funders, and business.
The full report is available on the NAVCA website
For Voluntary Action Leeds the direction for change is fully consistent with our objectives. The language of cooperation, with a clear a strong vision of where we need to be going, whilst recognising that we can only achieve change by working alongside others – either through physical location, or sharing purpose, is fundamental to shaping the future.
There are struggles for infrastructure/support agencies, just as there are for the sector as a whole. This report is a reminder that infrastructure organisations are part of a longer, wider struggle to make sure that our local communities and the third sector organisations which work within them, have a part in history and a role in democracy.
Chris Hollins, Chair, Voluntary Action Leeds