Where’s the tipping point? Where’s the breaking point?

Here’s a taste of the latest NCIA newsletter:

“A friend once said to me that my problem was that my ‘circle of concern’ was wider than my ‘circle of influence’. Maybe this explains why I spend so much time being cross? But consider the following. Over the last week I have heard that:

  • Bob Diamond of Barclay’s Bank resigns in disgrace but is given £1.5M and a nice pension to make him feel better;
  • A spokesperson for an official report on school examination boards says on the radio that “competition is driving down quality”;
  • The director of Lambeth’s Children’s Services declares that paying lots of money (£200k per child per year) to private and charitable care homes does not buy quality services;
  • Homelessness is up by 20% in one year;
  • The charity Kids Company has started feeding centres for children and families – up to 70 at one centre alone – to stick a finger in the dyke for the 2.2 million children living in poverty.

All this stuff concerns our world of voluntary action and history will ask – in looking back – what we all did about it. We’re currently doing a tiny bit of research to try and sort out who, in the VCS, can be called an ‘activist’ in these terrible times. What’s coming up, again and again, are groups that we are calling ‘(maybe) getting ready for activism’. These are mostly professionally oriented, obsessed with funding, overtly complaining about what is happening but still playing the game, trying to keep their seat at the table but feeling deeply uneasy about the cuts and compromises that are being demanded. These groups are the backbone of the historic voluntary sector. In truth they are being decimated by the commissioners, the SERCO’s, the NACRO’s and the rest of the corporate charity raiders. Whether they decide to bite back or give in will be an important sign of just how lost we are in the fight for social justice and a radical alternative.”

They also report on a recent event in the north-east:

“Volunteering as dissidence gets an airing
Another sign that dissidence is starting to appear on the radar is indicated by an event that took place in Newcastle on 3rd July. ‘Hearing Uncomfortable Messages: Volunteering as Activism/Dissidence’ was even mounted by the ESRC, not known for its radical agenda. NCIA’s Sue Robson did a storming presentation on the role of community development as radical activism. Her powerpoint presentation is available if you want to get the flavour of this – we can email you a copy if you ask – info@independentaction.net “