The workshop, Funding Matters: A Warning and An Opportunity, took place November 25, 2003. Over one hundred and fifty individuals attended. The event was presented by Community Development Halton in partnership with the Canadian Council on Social Development, the Ontario Social Development Council and the Halton Learning Foundation.
The purpose of this workshop was to provide an opportunity for Halton nonprofit and voluntary agencies as well as other representatives of the community to dialogue about:
The keynote speaker, Katherine Scott, highlighted the salient findings of her important study, Funding Matters: The Impact of Canada's New Funding Regime on Nonprofit and Voluntary Organizations. Panelists, with diverse experience and knowledge of Halton, commented from their vantage point on the ideas and analysis presented. They were: Theresa Greer, Executive Director, Halton Helping Hands; Adelina Urbanski, Commissioner, Community and Social Services, Regional Municipality of Halton; Chris Stoate, President, LaserNetworks; Marg Garey, Director, Peel-Halton-Dufferin Human Resources Development Canada; and Winston Tinglin, CEO, United Way of Burlington and Greater Hamilton. Peter Clutterbuck, Consultant to the Social Planning Council of Ontario, concluded the presentations with insights on the Social Sector's Economic Contribution.
The proceedings of this workshop are hosted on Community Development Halton's website at www.cdhalton.ca and are comprised of: i) five Community Dispatches summarizing the important findings from the document, Funding Matters: The Impact of Canada's New Funding Regime on Nonprofit and Voluntary Organizations; ii) the PowerPoint presentations of conference speakers Katherine Scott and Peter Clutterbuck; and iii) the conference recommendations entitled Recommendations: A Road to Travel.
The last section, Recommendations: A Road to Travel, of the proceedings flows from the deliberation of conference participants around three questions.
The recorded notes of the participant's commentary at the roundtable discussions are also available on CDH's website. There is overwhelming consensus by conference participants that the dimensions and characteristics of the funding regime that emerged during the 1990s have been identified clearly in the study, Funding Matters: The Impact of Canada's New Funding Regime on Nonprofit and Voluntary Organizations. Those present observe that the nature of funding to the nonprofit and voluntary sector, along with the ramifications of this funding model, affect the capacity and sustainability of the sector in Halton. In other words, Halton's local reality is described accurately by this study. Comments such as 'Katherine Scott's analysis is exactly on target' are noted continuously. Other observations capture the complexity of the issues such that the need for a profound and broad-based community dialogue emerges.
The conference participants in their response to question 2 reiterate and confirm the points made by the keynote speakers and panelists but elaborate from their Halton experience. They identified some important issues that separate the Halton experience from that of many communities. They are:
The conference participants are in search of leadership to articulate a social vision for Halton, followed by thoughtful and sustainable changes, based on the collective ingenuity of all community actors, as to how charitable dollars and government grants can best support and nurture the work of nonprofit and voluntary sector.
The present funding model is not sustainable and affects negatively in multiple ways the nonprofit and voluntary sector and, ultimately, the community as documented in the study, Funding Matters: The Impact of Canada's New Funding Regime on Nonprofit and Voluntary Organizations, and as substantiated in the commentary flowing from the conference. In fact, the sector is being restructured and the combined stresses it faces are threatening the capacity of nonprofit and voluntary agencies to sustain their activities. Trends show bigger agencies and groups are better able to weather the storm of funding change than smaller agencies and groups. Ultimately, a funding model reflects the value placed on the sector not only as a source of caring but also as a foundation for building social capital and creating democratic processes in a community. The challenge associated with the well being of the sector is quite simply, what do we want as a society, what do we consider to be a public good and, thus, not dispensable. It challenges us to face the real cost of delivering services.
An important subtext of the deliberations of this roundtable is a special subcommittee to explore the issue of four United Ways serving Halton.
The agencies and community assembled in this workshop indicate unequivocally that the presence of four independent United Ways is a barrier to the continued development of a human service infrastructure in Halton. There were multiple reasons given for this assessment.
Conference participants identify a paradox described as a lack of understanding of the issues of the sector by funders and, conversely, a lack of understanding of the needs of funders. The issues and needs of both groups have to be clearly articulated and shared in order for the two to work together to build a viable and vibrant nonprofit and voluntary sector.
The conference participants recognize the importance of accountability and that charitable dollars are well invested. However, they believe that accountability must be revisited to reflect the needs of the sector to be accountable to their multiple publics, that accountability to the community or public must take precedence over accountability defined by business type deliverables, and that accountability expectations be reasonable and proportionate to risk, so that onerous demands are not placed on agencies and organizations.
The nonprofit and voluntary sector brings together many members of the community to contribute to its social and economic development. The activities of nonprofit and voluntary organizations often represent that place where the active engagement of community residents occurs. This involvement is important in creating awareness about community and provides a vehicle for participatory democracy. When given an economic value, this volunteer contribution is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to a community. The rich interaction of volunteers, a community's social capital, must be nurtured and supported adequately. However, common perceptions associated with volunteer organizations and their needs must be dispelled in order to respect and use the talents of volunteers in an agency and in the community.
The conference participants concur with the description of the state of the social sector presented in the study, Funding Matters: The Impact of Canada's New Funding Regime on Nonprofit and Voluntary Organizations. Strong sentiment suggests that the sector must mobilize in order to educate citizens as to its role and importance and to advocate for funding practices and program partnerships that build the capacity of the sector to contribute to human well being and democratic citizenship. The funding crisis of the social sector is a political issue.
Evidence based advocacy is an area of activity central to the role and mandate of many organizations in the nonprofit and voluntary sector. Historically, the roots of the sector grew out of giving voice and support to those most vulnerable. Participants concurred that advocacy activities and the research substantiating the situation of people as they live in our communities have not been supported over the decade of the 1990s and, in fact, have been silenced. Advocacy is part of strengthening leadership in the sector and is part of the dialogue moving human services from those based on charity to those based on justice and human rights.
The nonprofit and voluntary sector is often described as one of the pillars of a democratic and civic society. Yet, conference participants identify the invisibility of the sector as a major detriment to public understanding of their work and its importance in building caring and socially inclusive communities where opportunity exists for all. Even less discussed is the economic role and contribution of the nonprofit and voluntary sector in a community. Conference participants also note that the public remains unaware of the impact of the downloading of human services to Regional government and then the impact of further downloading on to the nonprofit and voluntary sector.
For more information on the Funding Matters: A Warning and An Opportunity, please see the Funding Matters workshop materials page.
For more information on Funding Matters: The Impact of Canada's New Funding Regime on Nonprofit and Voluntary Organizations, visit the CCSD website at: http://www.ccsd.ca/pubs/2003/fm/
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