Thursday, March 11, 2010

The voluntary, community and social enterprise sector

Fighting for equality, sustainability, democracy, local community, self-reliance and cooperation is inherent to being Green. We want: fairness for all; to meet needs and provide plentiful opportunities now and in the long term; openness and accountability; strong and empowered local communities and economies; all people and sectors working together. The Green Party vision is of a strong, independent Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) sector making a vital contribution to socially and environmentally sustainable living and enhancing our wellbeing. Central and local government need to play a constructive, enabling role and develop and empower the sector.

VCSEs have grown and they play many different roles. This includes: provision of services to individuals, groups and to the environment, [though they should not be used to deliver public services on the cheap]; offering mutual provision of support and self-help by members to members; advocacy; education and research; and community business. They play a key part in the economic, social, cultural and environmental life of local communities and our society. Individuals and communities often come together to form organizations to carry out purposes that have not been adequately recognized by other institutions.

The sector competes against vastly better-resourced competitors often on an unequal playing field at present and yet risk taking and innovation is a key characteristic of many VCSEs. This puts them at the cutting edge of social, political, economic and environmental development in our society – though they should not be used as a pawn in the battle to roll back the frontiers of the state. The community and voluntary sector brings many benefits: building of civil society; strengthening our democracy; discussion of topical matters – and taking action on issues; contributing to the economy; helping people who have problems finding paid work transition into jobs; job creation; skills development; research and development; and linking communities.

In recent times Bristol’s Greens have welcomed the local government performance framework National Indicator 7 becoming a part of the Local Area Agreement - the voluntary sector needs the right kind of environment to thrive and this is a step in the right direction – but more is needed. Our policies commit us to: do away with the heavily centralised political system and empower local authorities and VCSE to help each other much more. We want to support and strengthen the community development and VCSEs support functions of Local Government based on principles of empowerment, participation and mutual respect. Greens support quality education and training programmes which increase sector capacity at all levels, both within and outside the formal education system.

Greens will provide sustainable funding of VCSEs and redesign the banking system with more emphasis on local communities and recirculating money throughout the local economy. Our intent is to: overcome problems with access to capital; see reinvestment of profits locally; support community activities and voluntary organizations; have local community banks administer a community development fund; provide investment funds for local enterprises engaged in ecologically sustainable businesses; make loans available to small business and community enterprises using innovative as well as traditional forms of security; have community ownership, including democratically elected, accountable shareholder directors; provide full retail and small-to-medium business banking services. Greens support the development of local currency and time banking schemes such as LETS, Time Banking, bartering and alternative currencies.

We will lay the basis for a cultural shift in favour of VCSEs through a charter for volunteers and carers outlining the statutory right to time off for education, public service and voluntary work. Greens would introduce a minimum income level beneath which no-one could fall, but upon which the vast majority of people could live - a Citizen’s Income - financially underpinning volunteering. We would ensure Government policy across all departments recognizes the contribution of volunteers, and foster a culture which promotes and supports volunteering as a key part of community life.

All elected Greens will keep up the pressure on statutory authorities to abide by Compact guidelines, drawing attention to those that do this well, pointing out those who do not. Recession is biting, EU and UK funding schemes are going/gone – how well are Bristol VCSEs coping with this? With VCSEs in Bristol relatively well-organised and well-represented they are perhaps doing better than many. But we are not out of the woods. We don’t yet have the culture needed to ensure that VCSEs can cope well in hard times and thrive in good times – that culture is what Greens are working for.

Greens want the divisive past few decades reversed so that there is no artificial separation between large and smaller VCSEs and no sacrifice of distinctiveness to compete for contracts. Good funding, effective capacity building, full cost recovery is what VCSEs need. Full and proper participation in decision making and proper use of the sector’s expertise in shaping communities and meeting needs is vital to the sustainable society Greens aim for.

1 comment:

  1. Glenn Vowles: "Greens support the development of local currency and time banking schemes such as LETS, Time Banking, bartering and alternative currencies."
    Jct: I would hope so. lists several Green Parties that have supported Greendollars and LETS was produced by two Green Party of Canada engineers Michael Linton and John Turmel. It was even on the Green Party of Canada platform in 1988 before being removed by later leadership.


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