VCSE Leadership Network meeting highlights issues facing sector

A strong turnout of trustees and senior staff attended the second VCSE Leadership Network meeting since its relaunch. The meeting was held on 14th February at The Forum in Norwich, and online.

It provided an opportunity to discuss overarching issues affecting the sector, how these impact on individual organisations and how to influence the political agenda.


VCSE sector manifesto

Chris Walker presented the work of NCVO (The National Council for Voluntary Organisations) and ACEVO (The Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations) in preparing a manifesto on behalf of the VCSE sector in advance of the General Election. The main focus is to formulate a clear set of asks of the next government. It also sets out the vital role of the sector in achieving political agendas around strengthening democracy, creating inclusive economies, building stronger communities, action on climate change and helping people to live happy and healthy lives.

The manifesto can be used locally to inform and underpin conversations with prospective candidates, new MPs and local authorities to increase their understanding of the needs of the sector as well as highlighting individual organisations’ contributions and successes.


Shining a light on local issues

Ruth Stokes from EC partner organisation NCAN (Norfolk Community Advice Network) talked about their close involvement in the newly formed multi-organisational Anti-Poverty Alliance and how they use national research to shine a light on local issues. Building on their Cost of Living Emergency Campaign, NCAN are working with partners to keep issues of poverty and deprivation at the top of the political agenda, as seen in both national (e.g. recent article in The Guardian about the impact of child poverty) and local press coverage (e.g. comment piece by David Powles of NCLS for the EDP).

For in-person attendees, animated discussions followed. These covered topics including:

  • the need for District-level plans on how to eliminate poverty.
  • the strain for organisations of supplying ‘sticking plaster’ solutions to systemic problems for an increasingly large portion of the population.
  • having to close referral services because there is nowhere to send clients to for further support.


Key outcomes from the VCSE Leadership Network meeting

To help the sector move forward there was a call for a joined-up common message for local organisations to amplify their individual priorities and demands. There was also a need for key spokespeople to articulate the most urgent messages effectively and interrogation of NCAN referral data to get an accurate picture of the changes in demand and response, and a combined approach to measuring and highlighting key issues.

A key question for the session was to canvas views around how we influence more effectively as a VCSE sector. We discussed the need for better two-way communication with statutory partners. There was a recognition of the challenges that the funding environment creates for collaborative and cooperative working between VCSE partners. We discussed the value of developing principles of cooperative and collaborative working for VCSEs and the importance of learning from other geographical areas about how VCSE and statutory partnering works there.


Next steps for future VCSE Leadership Network meetings

There is clearly much work to be done, and Empowering Communities is committed to driving this work forward. We will continue to champion our sector and foster greater local collaboration. We will be continuing these conversations with the VCSE sector and our statutory partners.

If you’d like to attend the next VCSE Leadership Network meeting, please email Similarly please contact us if you have ideas and suggestion for future sessions.

To find out more about the Anti-Poverty Alliance, please contact Ruth Stokes on

Back to News