News and Videos from Our Annual Summit

Posted on
5 Jun 2019
by Ivan Cooper, Director of Public Policy at The Wheel
Annual Summit

Ivan Cooper, Director of Public Policy at The Wheel gives a summary of the discussions and policy updates from our Annual Summit in Croke Park on Thursday, 23 May! Over 500 people took part in a series of energetic exchanges on the big issues facing the community, voluntary and charity sector.

To kick off the day, the main plenary session of the conference looked at how we can best support the community, voluntary and charity sector to realise its full potential. Throughout the afternoon our parallel sessions then looked at reframing the relationship between statutory funders and voluntary organisations; supporting the advocacy role of charities; delivering on the Sustainable Development Goals; and the future of social enterprise. 

What emerged during these many energising discussions was that while participants were clear that while the community, voluntary and charity sector face very substantial challenges, there are also many positive opportunities and a clear commitment to working towards their realisation. There was broad agreement on the following:

  1. Collaboration: We need to return to more a partnership based, collaborative working and genuine social dialogue between the sector and the state, as well as between organisations and funders. If we don’t do this then we risk unresponsive services rooted in bureaucracy rather than the person-centered-services that people and communities want and which we pride ourselves on.
  2. IRG Report: The recommendations of the Independent Review Group's Report on the Role of Voluntary Organisations in Publicly Funded Services (such as developing a charter on sector/state relations; agreeing essential services to be fully funded; and moving to multi-annual funding) were strongly endorsed by participants.
  3. Streamlining compliance requirements: Action is needed to streamline ever-increasing compliance requirements. The Charities Regulator was commended for its recent initiative to test the feasibility of a Charity Passport system to reduce duplicate reporting, but more needs to be done in incorporating the full costs associated with complying with regulation.
  4. Civil Society Voice: The Electoral Acts need to be amended to remove the risk that they currently present to advocacy by charities. Civil society’s voice and freedom to advocate for change is important and needs to be protected so organisations can be empowered to carry out their work, representing people in society and advocating on their behalf.
  5. Trust: Restoring trust in the sector remains a priority, and an important step in achieving this is the introduction of a Financial Reporting Standard for Charities by the Charities Regulator and the Department of Rural and Community Development. In the absence of a standard there will be insufficient transparency in the accounts of charities, undermining trust in the sector. Community and Voluntary organisations need to ensure that they are transparent and accountable and publish their accounts on their websites.
  6. Impact: As charities, we also need to tell our stories, and capture the positive difference we are making in the day to day lives of the people and communities we serve.  If we are to move beyond financial accountability, we ourselves need to create an impact framework to show the added-value and real lived impact of our work.
  7. Sustainable Development Goal’s: When it comes to working on the great crisis facing the world; climate change, de-carbonisation, global inequality and mass-migration, the work of civil society is central. As civil society groups, we need to challenge ourselves, government and society in general to focus on bringing the needed changes about.
  8. Strategy Developments: there was widespread recognition of the many positives and the great potential that the sector’s (still relatively new) lead Department of Rural and Community Development represents, and great store was put in the three strategies that the department is currently developing (10-year Strategy for the Sector, a policy on social enterprise and strategy on volunteering).

The Wheel will be feeding these insights into the work of our member networks (such as our HSE and Tusla networks), the many coalitions we are members of (including the SDG 2030 Coalition; the Alliance for Insurance Reform and the People's Voice Campaign for Electoral Reform), as well as our public policy programme.

Secondly, a number of key issues were raised in the four panel discussions mentioned above. We have produced a series of short blogs to capture the key points from each of these discussions. You can read these four blogs below:

  1. Protecting civil society's voice
  2. Rising to the SDG challenge
  3. Social enterprise - a new way of thinking
  4. Accountability and autonomy: getting the balance right.

And finally, to top off a jam packed and engaging day of discussion, An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar TD addressed Summit 2019 to mark the occasion of our 20th Anniversary. An Taoiseach noted that The Wheel embodies all that is best about active citizenship and the spirit of Civic Republicanism. We strongly advise you to watch An Taoiseach's speech here or read the transcript here.

You can also view the full agenda for the day and download all the presentations here.

We also invite you to view videos from Summit 2019 below...