by Yaseer Ahmed-Clore Leadership Programme Fellow- Read his full research paper here
As we develop to actualise meaningful business collaborations, and in some way fill the gap left by a reduction in the size of the public sector, there is a risk that we fall foul and neglect or lose sight of the sincerity of our intentions. Our actions may not be in line with our words, and the question to the social sector as a whole is whether we are indeed living the values that we profess. Recently, some cases have come to light where this was evidently not the case. An extreme, but highly current, example is the recent discovery that albeit a very small percentage, the Church of England having spoken out vehemently against pay day lenders, has an indirect stake in Wonga’s principal financial backers. Another example is the ‘zero hours debate’ around zero hours contracts. This came to the fore during the 2012 Olympics in London, where organisations involved in the Olympics including McDonalds and G4S used zero hour contracts for their workers, despite the Olympic values being respect, excellence, and friendship. It was perceived that the zero hour contracts went against these values. More generally, it is estimated that there are now nearly 1 million people on such contracts, with over 300,000 of these workers in the care system. It recently emerged that the charity and social enterprise Turning Point had sacked approximately 300 staff on casual contracts, only to re-engage them on zero hour contracts. Some charities and social enterprises have cited the decrease in Government funding and new commissioning rules, as warranting the use of such contracts. In a society and sector prioritising the care of the disadvantaged, can we really warrant such widespread use of a contract that provides little security to the employee?
As the social sector aspires to be more business-like, and as it explores new models of working as well as social investment, I have two primary concerns: one being the possible erosion of a values driven culture, due to new financial pressures and funding arrangements, and two, the repeated desire that sector leaders display in searching externally for advice and support, when they have so much expertise and experience within the sector at their disposal, that is in fact values-led. In 2005 the Government argued that third sector organisations were well-placed to deliver high quality public services precisely because they were ‘valuesdriven’ and primarily motivated by the desire to further social, environmental or cultural objectives, rather than to make a profit. Knight and Robson’s work on the independence of the voluntary and community sector suggests that voluntary and community organisations ‘have distinctive values and qualities that make them excellent providers of services and effective advocates of change’. It strikes me that in the current financial and fear based climate, social sector values-based leaders are in-fact the key to UK development and growth. So I ask, has the Social Sector taken enough care of its values and the assumed ‘values-driven’ culture, to ensure that it does not become a casualty of the revolution to innovate, collaborate, expand and capitalise into different markets. Is there enough of a values debate in the sector, and should we challenge the crisis of confidence, and actually promote our own social sector emerging and existing leaders, onto boards within the private, and public sectors, as opposed to the other way around?