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Let the Voluntary Sector Set its Own Standards

Comment 5th July 2010

Voluntary organisations have to abide by a raft of standards to get any funding or recognition. Most of these are written by lawyers who have never set foot in a voluntary organisation or sub-statutory funders who want excuses to stop giving out money to make their lives easier. Consequently, although it is vital to have standards themselves, the ones in existence can be irrelevant, counterproductive or downright harmful, preventing organisations from providing valuable services for no good reason. They can lead to absurd situations like people who have come for a service being forced to fill in a questionnaire after receiving that service, thinking they are being spied on and refusing to come to the organisation again. It is also the case that the most determined criminals prosper under this system, as they know how to play the game and misrepresent things like misuse of funds and fraud because the rules of how to misbehave are laid out for them in the standards!

Though it is difficult to get agreed standards, a more responsive system which reflected genuine ability and capacity could be developed by INVOLVING VOLUNTARY SECTOR REPRESENTATIVES in various fields rather than expecting the voluntary setor to jump to standards INVENTED BY EVERYONE ELSE. This is the root of the problem – it is always assumed that everyone else is more capable than people in the voluntary sector, though the performance of other types of organisation (including government) does not support this theory.


Why does this matter?

Every organisation should provide the best service it can, in the most legal, proper and ethical way. That is what standards try to achieve. When they fail to achieve this, or stop it happening, they should be repealed, but those who have to adopt the standards have no say in what they are. Everyone gets better services of all kinds if the standards those services work to are a reflection of actual ability and honesty and help organisations get better rather than preventing them providing valuable services. Businesses also know this very well. We all have much more to gain by operating under meaningful rules than irrelevant ones. You will only develop such standards by talking to those who work under them every day.

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