Voluntary sector, unions and participation
Just at the end of last night on Twitter (beckytuc) I caught the news that the Guardian where running a story on the impact of local government cuts on third sector organisations.
It paints a bleak picture for those charities and the people they help.
Putting this into an even wider context, this year, the NCVO produced a brilliant document on participation within the UK. We would assume, but this report showed, that this sector is overwhelmingly supported by volunteers and giving. Yet, individual giving has not increased since the 1990s and while the number of volunteers has largely remained stable, the actual number of formal volunteering has fallen.
How is this linked with trade union organising and campaigning? I think in two main ways.
Firstly, Chris wrote on the need for collective bargaining and I think strong and effective unions help to create a strong civil society. Collective bargaining across the economy can raise incomes, move towards better worklife balance (increasing the time to volunteer), and hold wealthy organisations to account.
Secondly, in context, the decline in union membership is part of a wider decline in participation. The paper identified six key drivers to membership: changing sources of identity,changing attitudes to money, availability of inforamtion, rise of social web, changing expectations of participations and the commodification of membership.
When the challenges of participation and membership for charities are the same for unions, I ask the question: How are we learning from each other?
I’m not sure we really are, but if we are to continue to build the civil society, we need to support each other and work together.