In taking up office as Chair of NAVCA following the AGM last week in Sheffield I wish to place on record my thanks to the NAVCA members who voted for me in membership ballot, to Rita Chadha for standing as the alternative candidate. The election process and engagement was testimony to NAVCA’s health.
Above all we owe a massive thank you to Caroline Schwaller as she stands down after six years as our fantastic Chair.
Caroline has made a significant contribution to NAVCA especially over the last few years as she has successfully led and steered a major change programme to ensure our future. She has also made a huge and valuable contribution to the wider movement for local social action over the last thirty years. Thank you, Caroline.
I have learnt much from Caroline, but I am, and I will be different.
NAVCA is not the board nor its excellent staff team. First and foremost, it is our membership. I see us as a movement of kindred spirits from across England who champion and enable local social action; speak up for the voluntary and community sector especially the local sector; promote our shared values of fairness, equality and social justice; and are ready and willing to speak truth unto power.
NAVCA through its board and staff team have the responsibility to champion local infrastructure and the needs and aspirations of our members; to offer leadership, advice, support and challenge to all our members; and in turn encourage our members to contribute to the leadership of NAVCA and our movement, to advice, support and challenge the board and the staff team. Our strength will be maximised when all recognize, value and safeguard the mutualism of our movement.
I know that locally NAVCA members and their members face enormous challenges. Public funding all too often is inadequate or sadly in many cases long gone. Other sources of funding are not easy to secure. Demand for the local voluntary and community sector’s services and its advocacy is growing all the time. It is not an easy time and we are likely to face challenges for many more years. Indeed, I suspect that we always have faced big challenges, but it is encouraging that the sector has been able to more than survive. I see NAVCA’s central role is to support members to evolve and change just as the NAVCA team and core organisation has done. I see us brokering collaboration and mutual support between members; and for members to work with the NAVCA team on projects and programmes. This is what I mean by our mutualism.
Over my eight years associated with NAVCA I have seen the resilience and resolve of the wider NAVCA movement. This makes me optimistic. That said, I do not pretend that it this is easy. Survival and striving to ensure that members’ members are keeping afloat and developing is very demanding especially in a period of continuing austerity.
Last week we had an incredibly upbeat AGM and conference. This bodes well for the future.
I am proud of the NAVCA staff team led by Jane. She and her colleagues have demonstrated their abilities and resolve over the last eighteen months. I am confident that they will continue to serve NAVCA and our members though what is done and how it is done will continually evolve.
As I take up my appointment as Chair, I am committed to
· working with members to create an even greater solidarity within our NAVCA movement
· champion and promote local social action supported by well resourced local infrastructure bodies which are accountable to the local VCS not any public body
· developing a long term strategic programme to refocus NAVCA including new governance arrangements, which strengthens the link between the board and members and ensures that the board and staff team are accountable to the members – this development must involve members, NAVCA trustees and other stakeholders
· ensuring that NAVCA remains relevant and beneficial to our members in all that does and says
· NAVCA speaking up and speaking out on issues that matter to our members and position us as champions of equality, social justice and inclusion
· NAVCA becoming an exemplar national membership and infrastructure body at the heart of our membership
· developing relations with local government at a national level in ways that will benefit members locally
· listening to, visiting and sharing ideas with NAVCA members around the country – I am keen to hear from members.
NAVCA is in a good position financially and operationally but candidly I must report that, just like almost every other charitable organisation, we have no guarantee of security. I am determined as is the board and Jane to ensure that we are secure because that matters to our members. I am confident that we will succeed not least because of the actions we plan to take and which I have described above.
We must be a dynamic movement for social action; for our values; and our mission.
Together we can be just that.
I am excited to become Chair and I am convinced that together we can and we will be such a movement.
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