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 “

Gaining power: challenges facing activists

National Coalition For Independent Action (NCIA) is joining forces with National Community Activists Network (NatCAN) to bring together activists to look seriously, and not so seriously, at the question of power and how to challenge the status quo.

Where and When

  • Thursday 19th July 2012
  • Resource for London, 356 Holloway Road, London N7 6PA
  • FREE

This is a one-day event to hear about practical work and discuss challenges and ideas, as well as thinking about how to change the world.

Help is needed to shape the programme. Please tell the organisers what topics you want to discuss, or speakers you would like to hear – email melaina_AT_independentaction.net or add your comments to the online discussion

If you haven’t already registered with NatCAN, you’ll need to sign up before you can add your comments – it’s easy, just click on ‘Sign up’ on the top right-hand side.

Updated programme, times and details of how to book a free place soon.

If you can’t make it to London on 19th July, you can always sign up to the NCIA group on NatCAN – this space will be used to post the questions that people want to carry on talking about after the event.

A new space for community and voluntary action?

Here’s news of an interesting event….

NCIA Assembly at the Bank of Ideas
Occupy community groups and public services: a discussion to find a new
space for community and voluntary action.
Tuesday December 13th, 2pm to 4pm, Room 1.05, The Bank of Ideas, 29 Sun
Street (near Liverpool Street station), London

Amongst other things billed as: “one of those unexpected opportunities: to make links between voluntary sector workers and activists, find out what is emerging and imagine alternatives.”. More details follow (and on The National Coalition for Independent Action website)

NCIA has been documenting threats to voluntary action from cuts, commissioning, top-down management methods, and loss of confidence and purpose in organisations. Meanwhile, people persevere in local community action – they care for each other, organise support and activities, ask questions, challenge and change the status quo.

In a recent Guardian article, Stuart Hall notes that weighty professional voices have joined protests against structural reforms and cuts. But he also highlighted the role of unexpected developments and counter-movements, resistance, alternative visions. All are welcome to listen to some of our members talk about their experiences and to join in open discussion about how to defend our unique, ungoverned space.

Invite friends and colleagues, but let us know if you’re attending if possible, so we have an idea of how many to expect. If you’re coming from outside London, we may be able to cover some travel expenses. Please get in touch with us first to check:
rachael@independentaction.net or melaina@independentaction.net.