One difference between the voluntary sector and the private sector – in theory at least – is the emphasis placed on collaboration and knowledge sharing. In the voluntary sector, organisations which have very similar goals and try to reach out to the same people often give away their secrets to each other in the name of “sharing best practice”, while private companies are likelier to guard their methods in the name of “commercial advantage”.
Although there is certainly a competitive streak in the voluntary sector, and that can be very healthy, you are likelier to find the chief executives of two large charities telling each other openly about their new ideas than the heads of, say, Samsung and Apple.
At United Response we’ve been able to see this in action in the last fortnight through our managing director, Bob Tindall, who has been speaking at several events organised by other charities. Just over a fortnight ago he was invited to the Papworth Trust to talk to 150 of their staff about how to create a person-centred organisation; one which is built around the needs of the people it supports and the staff it employs rather than its own organisational requirements.
As anyone who has been reading this blog recently will know, this has been a subject of keen interest to us for many years – as shown by the book we have just published with Helen Sanderson – and so Bob was pleased to be able to discuss practical ideas with an interested audience.
A few days later, Helen Sanderson organised a conference on putting person-centred principles at the heart of service delivery. We were very pleased to be able to take an active role in the day, with Bob once again speaking about how to go about fostering a person-centred culture.
Yesterday Bob again stepped up to the podium, having been asked to speak at an event organised for the 50th anniversary of FitzRoy Support, another charity working with disabled people. Bob used the occasion as an opportunity to look back over the little understood history of people with learning disabilities during that 50 years. He celebrated the major progress made in fighting for the rights of people with learning disabilities and the role that charities like Fitzroy have played in that.
However, he also observed how regularly abuse scandals have occurred throughout the 50 years – most recently in the case of Winterbourne View – and what crucial lessons can be learnt from this. He asked how, if we presume the current times of austerity continue, we can work to continue improving support for people with learning disabilities while also preventing these abuses happening with such depressing regularity.
All of these issues are particularly pertinent to United Response as we celebrate our own anniversary next year, when we turn 40 years old. This shows just why it is so valuable to engage openly with partners/competitors like Helen Sanderson and FitzRoy. By thinking about the role FitzRoy will play in the future, we are also able to think about our own, with the hope that both organisations will benefit, and – most importantly – so will the people we support.
Jaime Gill, head of press and public affairs