Thursday, 13 November 2014

Sheffield Hallam ESRC Festival

Kevin dropped an A3 preview programme on my desk.  Since we've upped our sights in Jesus Centre networking, we want to talk to people with cheque books, not agencies like our own holding out begging bowls.  Hallam Uni joining with the Economic and Social Research Council in a week of charity-related presentations sounded ideal.  I booked for the Thursday session on Outcomes Measurements for Service Commissioners and the Friday one on Charity Legislation and Accounting Regulations.  It may not be your idea of fun, but as vice-Chair of Jesus Army Charitable Trust, I have to keep up to date with trustee matters.  Commissioners, by the way, are groups appointed by every local Council and NHS Trust to distribute their budgets towards what they see to be the priority services and interventions.
I caught the Supertram to the Source, Meadowhall, for the first event.  I entered a noisy teaching room of public- and voluntary-sector professionals, and quickly grabbed the day's information pack and some coffee.   Okay, let's get the biased demography over:  the majority were high horsepower middle-aged women in black office somethings, and I guessed a good number were divorced but dedicated to running other peoples' lives.

The presentations began with a summary of academic-led outcomes measurement work undertaken with Doncaster Council.  Here I must display another prejudice.  You see, I lectured for over five years.  Steve Rumsden, my senior colleague, invigilated my first class.  "Yea, you've got it," he concluded.  "You can make 40 minutes worth of material spin out for an hour."  So we had an hour's powerpoint that amounted to, well, "We made up a questionnaire, and it got us some feedback".

The second set of presentations was about a scheme in Rotherham by which GPs can prescribe a range of social measures to complement medical ones.  So, if a patient's wellbeing would benefit from increased contact with other people, they can be referred to a befriending service.  Here I pricked up my ears, because  our Jesus Centres probably deliver a bunch of services that could be recognised in this category.  The academic angle again was again somewhat underwhelming - they'd programmed some follow-up phone calls. 

Any way, after chatting to various people over lunch, I determined to contact Voluntary Action Sheffield, who are probably most in touch with the various commissioners in the city.  Lest you consider I've been harsh about the outcomes measures, I concede it's difficult to get right.

Which brings me to the Friday event, held at the Hallam main city-centre campus.  By comparison with Thursday, it was a positive introvert-fest.  It appears the on-line booking system had a glitch, and I'd effectively gatecrashed an invitation-only private function.  No matter.  We wheeled into the history of charity regulation in Ireland, and then a detailed qualitative study on the narrative section in charity annual accounts that's designed to demonstrate public benefit.  We went on to consider new regulation in Scotland, and about-to-be-introduced proposals in Northern Ireland. 

The quiet conversations over coffee were on a peer-to-peer level with people at the top of their game.  I noticed discreet lapel badges betokening Christian commitment.

We sauntered off the the Uni's showpiece restaurant for lunch.  The afternoon concentrated on audit findings and implications in the light of SORP 2015, and group work to suggest regulation and standards improvements to feed back to various professional bodies.  Then a final presentation concluded, from a survey involving 179 nations, that the time may be right for a global approach to charity reporting.  It appears that many recipient nations get bullied by donors, and would appreciate a level playing field.  Maybe that's something for me to do as a retirement project if Multiply funds run further short.

The good news is that our Church not-for-profit entities' annual returns seem to score well.  But its going to get more complicated.

No comments: