This is the first time for a while I’ve had the chance to add something to the Blog part of the site and whilst I’ve not exactly be overwhelmed by cries of outrage over my neglect, I do feel obliged to keep things refreshed to try and encourage folk to come back here from time to time. I’ve not had chance to update things due to an unanticipated surge in work which, given the economic situation, feels almost insensitive to own up to, not least because a significant part of the work is about dealing with the impact of the recession. I’ve been commissioned by NAVCA (the National Association of Voluntary and Community Action) to help local voluntary sector infrastructure organisations (or LIOs as they are now known such as Councils for Voluntary Service or Voluntary Action Centres) plan to improve the resilience of the third sector in the face of the recession. It’s proving to be difficult to measure the impact of recession on the third sector partly due to lack of reliable data, but also because anecdotal intelligence is conflicting. It is clear that the advice sector is facing a huge increase in demand for advice on debt, housing and employment related issues. There is also some evidence that personal relationships are suffering and cases of domestic violence are on the increase with the subsequent impact on child behaviour. There is some new funding on the back of this, but it’s all short term which makes staff recruitment difficult. On the plus side, there are more people looking to volunteer which at one level is great, but in many cases front line organisations are struggling to meet the training and support needs of new would-be volunteers – an area of work traditionally very difficult to fund. Now I must confess to being cynical about writing plans and am always minded of the famous John Lennon quote “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans” One thing is clear to me though: the ISOs best placed to deal with the recession are those who understand their role as sector leaders (particularly in adversity). They understand their sector and have established effective functioning networks so they are constantly up to speed with what’s happening on the front line. They are respected by their statutory sector partners and are therefore well placed to advocate on the sector’s behalf. And they are flexible enough to respond quickly to particular situations and ensure that the most appropriate support measures are put in place and that whatever resources can be squeezed out of the system are used to the best effect. This is what infra-structure support is all about, and the local ISOs that will come out best from the sorry mess our friends in the financial sector have dropped on us will be those who’ve been doing this stuff for years. Sadly, too many ISOs have lost touch with the front line, lost the respect of their constituency which in turn makes it difficult to be taken seriously by the statutory sector. Now is a good time to put that right.