As I write this, the team are just about to head over to the Mechanics Institute for today's Emergency Voluntary Sector Assembly event to discuss the impact of Council budget proposals on the work of the voluntary and community groups in Manchester.
Unsurprisingly there has been huge interest in this meeting so I'm confident that we'll see a good cross-section of the local sector: large and small organisations, from all parts of the city and delivering a huge range of services and activities in local commnities. There will be a lot of anger borne out of deep concern for local communities. I'm expecting a fiery, passionate discussion and that it will be tough job to make sure that all voices are heard.
The idea for the event is that it is a safe space for the sector to get together to consider what we can do and to agree what we want to say collectively. In setting up this event one of Macc's main concerns is that people should feel able to vent their feelings, make mistakes, explore, unpick and come up with the best, clearest message they can. For that reason, there will be no Council officers or Elected Members present and although we'll be webcasting the first half of the meeting the cameras will be switched off at the half way point. If that all sounds a bit lacking in the collaborative spirit we try to champion then it's important to remember the pressure organisations are under in these circumstances: they need to think carefully, to explore ideas about their future, what they want to say, how they want to say it and to whom. After today's event we will be publishing a Statement from the Assembly and be used to inform the many conversations taking place with officers, Councillors, scrutiny committees and in numerous meetings. That's why this event is not a dialogue with anyone external: it is a space for groups to develop collaboration within the sector.
- To start the discussion today we'll be having some short presentations by four local organisations about the impact on the people who use their services if the budget proposals are approved. You'll be able to watch these via our webcast here: https://www.manchestercommunitycentral.org/news/watch-emergency-voluntary-sector-assembly-voluntary-sector-cuts
- We'll also have a video booth for groups to make short statements of their own veiws. These will be posted online after the event and will, I hope, serve as testimony to inform the decision making which will take place early next year.
- The statement from the event will be published on our Voluntary Sector Cuts webpages here: https://www.manchestercommunitycentral.org/policy-and-influence/voluntary-sector-cuts
- If you're on Twitter you can contribute to the debate using ...well there's a clue in the title (apologies to non-tweeters if the title is confusing!).
In all the conversations I've had with groups, the main concern is always the impact on the local people they work with. It is perhaps the most fundamental point about the voluntary and community sector that the groups and organisations we create are simply a means to an end - and that spirit represents the sector at its finest. Although the impact on volunteers and staff is important, today's discussion will not be about the survival of organisations or services for their own sake, it will about the difference we make to the lives of people in the city.