History of The Essex Alliance
The original idea for The Essex Alliance came from the Essex CEO forum, This was an informal group of VCS leaders from across Essex. At the time it was being facilitated by Bob Reitemeier of ECF.
Over time, the forum distilled two issues: One was the changing face of funding and the need to work in consortia. The other was the lack of representation with Public Sector partners for VCS organisations that could be classified as SMEs and above. The forum recognised the work of the CVSs but felt that this was a massive task and that there was a clear gap.
Two initiatives came out of these discussions: 4SX is a business minded consortia organisation that, while still values driven, is clearly about access to contracts and money. Their website is here: www.4sx.org.uk
The second initiative was The Essex Alliance. This is more about voice. The initial Chair was Phil Martin of YMCA. Paul Feasey of Signpost then took over and the current Chair is Alison Stevens of Farleigh Hospice.
At first The Essex Alliance worked in traditional ways: appointing representatives to attend meetings and ensure that our voice was heard. Many people have put in a lot of effort to ensure that the sector’s voice is heard. We have had some successes but clearly times were (and still are) changing and we needed to adapt if we were to fulfil our mission.
The way in which we are facilitating communication is developing: Traditional models of representation tend to place too much emphasis on the representative and the practise of cascading information via email is usually one way and buries the recipients in too much information irrelevant to them. The Essex Alliance is leading the way in developing technological solutions to these issues. Online forums, simple to use once you get going, allow every member of The Essex Alliance to interact with the representative and sometimes the very individuals we are representing to! The use of online communication has the potential to give everyone a voice and level the playing field. This strategy shifts the balance towards facilitating communication between interested parties but retains a representative function.
Another area of profound change lies in the funding models adopted by our public sector partners: clearly the move to a more business-based model of procurement has profound implications for the voluntary sector. Again, finding ways to adapt leads us to look at things differently. The Essex Alliance has opened its membership up to Social Enterprises and other types of organisations that work for the betterment of the people of Essex. This increase in scale and relevance can only enhance the power and quality of representation, and therefore the quality of delivery, of those who work in our communities.
Hopefully you can see that this potted history shows how The Essex Alliance is rising to meet the varying challenges our sector faces and has thought beyond traditional models and is working to carry on and improve its work into the future.
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