Early in the pandemic a colleague sent me a fascinating webinar from experts in crisis response.  It talked about the importance of keeping yourself and your organisation “in lane” – making sure that you’re contributing to the discussions in which you’ve got expertise and insight, and resisting the temptation (and the very human response) to want to jump in and help with anything and everything.

That really hit home, because since I joined SCVO at the end of last year I’ve done a lot of thinking about how to define and describe “our lane” when it comes to policy and influencing work.  What’s our unique contribution, and what are we trying to achieve?  Having just started to get to grips with this around March, I was initially worried that my six-months-in-the-making framework for our policy priorities would have to be put in the bin, but once I calmed down a bit, it became clear that the issues we were working on were still the same, they just needed to be viewed through a COVID lens.

Our aim is still to influence the sector’s operating environment, it’s just that that the environment we’re influencing looks different.

Taking this as our overarching aim allows us to work on issues that will impact on organisations across the sector, regardless of their size, structure, or the thematic issues they work on.  We need to make sure that we’ve got the sector’s back on the issues that impact on their ability to deliver their missions, and over the coming year we think that those issues will include:

  • understanding and responding to the impact of coronavirus on the voluntary sector in Scotland
  • providing the sector with a platform for futures thinking and amplifying the sector’s voice in national discussions on renewal
  • thinking strategically with the sector and a range of funders about the long-term funding of the sector
  • making sure the impact of Brexit on the sector is not forgotten
  • highlighting the sector’s role as an employer, and our role in discussions relation to that
  • working with colleagues in the public sector to consider the ongoing relationship between our sectors
  • keeping an eye on regulatory issues that could impact on the sector.

Those priorities have guided us through the last few months, allowing us to secure access to business support grants for the voluntary sector, work with a range of funders to identify the range of financial support needed in the initial emergency phases and beyond, and ensure that the sector’s voice was heard in national discussions like the Framework for Recovery and the Advisory Group on Economic Recovery.

This work has been informed by our engagement with the sector, and thank you to all those who have given their time to this.  By describing more clearly what we’re working on and what we’re hoping to achieve, we hope it will be easier for organisations to identify which areas of our work are most important to them, and how they can get involved. 

Over the next year, we will be piloting a range of ways of engaging differently, and expanding the number and type of organisations that we work with to make sure we really understand the challenges you are facing, and what might work best to help to solve them.  I can keep us in lane, but we need you to drive us.