VCS Involvement Partners: A Guide for partners

Why is VCS Involvement and representation important?

The VCS shares the same overall objectives as public sector organisations: working to best serve and support local people and the communities of Dorset.

Through our VCS Involvement Partners we are able to coordinate communication and consultation mechanisms where evidence is required to support local decision making.

The VCS are often able to provide:

  • Information concerning local action, projects and services
  • Knowledge of community groups and demographics
  • An understanding of neighbourhood characteristics
  • Awareness of community issues and concerns

VCS involvement in partnership working to tackle common issues can help to generate more holistic solutions to local problems and avoid duplication.

  • The VCS are often able to demonstrate greater flexibility and speed of response in the design of new local services or initiatives.
  • The VCS has experience of working to address the most deep-rooted problems often experienced by people whose circumstances make them most vulnerable.
  • The VCS is well placed to attract additional resources to an area building on knowledge and experience of external funding, local and national networks and using volunteers.

Why should I choose to work with CAN VCS Involvement Partners?

Having recognised the value of VCS representation in principle, how do you go about obtaining representatives? Although the simplest option is to invite a single organisation to the table, with more than 7000 registered charities in Dorset, and many more informal voluntary groups, this kind of approach means only those already ‘in the know’ get to know.  Choosing a CAN VCS Involvement Partner solves this issue.

We are a membership lead, independent, free to join and open to all VCS organisations in Dorset. We want to ensure local communities are strong, healthy, diverse and thriving and providing a fair and effective mechanism for representation of the VCS is key to this. We use our extensive networks and communication links.

  • All our VCS Involvement Partners receive training. They will regard it as part of their role to communicate with, and represent, the wider VCS.
  • Our infrastructure facilitates communication with specific interest groups through our Networks and the wider voluntary sector. All our Involvement Partners can access support to help them engage more widely.
  • We have over 600 members and they receive our regular eNewsletters
  • We recruit our VCS Involvement Partners through a democratic process that is open to all our members.
  • VCS Involvement Partners understand the difference between representation of the sector and single issue campaigns. They are briefed on how to deal with conflicts of interest.

What if I already have VCS Representation but not from CAN?

Some of you may already have established VCS representatives on your groups, and while appreciating the value of a VCS Involvement Partner, do not want to upset established relationships.  In these circumstances:

  • Talk to your existing representative and ask them to get in touch with the us to explore what it means to be an VCS Involvement Partner. Our membership is open to all and it is possible that your existing rep is willing to become join as one of our VCS Involvement Partners.
  • Consider introducing a VCS Involvement Partner as an additional group member at your next Terms of Reference Review

How do I obtain a VCS Involvement Partner?

We can help to arrange for an appropriate VCS Involvement Partner to work with you. Simply contact us to get started.

Be prepared to provide:

  • The purpose of the group, aims, objectives and what you are working to achieve.
  • Whether the group is permanent or time-limited.
  • What meetings you would like the representative to attend. Where meetings take place, how frequent they are and how many hours they last on average.
  • The characteristics of the group you are arranging such as the size of the meeting and the roles of the other members.
  • Whether you require any specialist knowledge or someone with a particular focus.

Top Tips for Working With the VCS

  • Be clear about your expectations and what support you need from us and our VCS Involvement Partner.
  • Support your VCS Involvement Partner by providing any background information about the meeting you are holding.
  • Remember that information will flow two ways, and that your Involvement Partner will need to report back (providing clear minutes of meetings will support this process).
  • Don’t expect your Involvement Partner to know all the answers. They may need time and support to carry out some consultation work with us before they can fully represent the views of the wider sector.
  • Bear in mind that there will not always be a consensus of opinion within the VCS and that it may be necessary to consider a range of views and suggestions.
  • Make sure your Involvement Partner feels able to contribute to meetings. Offer space on your agenda and create opportunities for involvement.
  • Try and send meeting dates and papers out in plenty of time.
  • Not all of our Involvement Partners are paid employees, so be aware of your organisation’s policy and procedures to reimburse volunteers.