by Kathleen Caskie | Third Sector Forum Manager

On the 11th of December in the beautiful surrounds of the City Chambers Banqueting Hall, Glasgow City Council hosted a Third Sector Summit, where Council elected members and staff and representatives of the third sector came together to discuss the relationship between the Council and the sector. 

Demand for spaces at the event far outstripped availability, showing a real hunger from the third sector for change and for developing new ways of working in Glasgow.  The Summit was live-streamed by the Council, meaning that those unable to get tickets for the event could follow it online.

Third Sector Interface (TSI) partners (GCVS, Volunteer Glasgow, Glasgow Social Enterprise Network and Glasgow Third Sector Forum) co-produced the agenda with the Council, to ensure that it heard from as diverse a range of third sector voices as possible, from the small community based organisations struggling hard for resources (their CEO starts her day cleaning the toilets and 12 hours later is still on the go, offering services and support to vulnerable young people), to national charities running early intervention and prevention projects in the city.

The event was chaired by Baillie Russell Robertson, who welcomed the delegates to the event and expressed his respect for the work of the third sector and his hopes that the day would be just the first step in developing new ways of working.

Opening speeches from Councillor David McDonald, the Council Deputy Leader and Helen Macneil, CEO of GCVS set the tone for the day, with their emphasis on moving forward together to solve old problems and create new opportunities.  Helen’s outlining of the size and scope of Glasgow’s third sector, the jobs and services provided by it and the added value it brings into the city via additional funding and volunteering emphasised the need for public and third sectors to work in partnership, as we have so many common goals in terms of addressing poverty and inequality and supporting communities.

The Summit heard from a wide range of speakers, each of whom addressed some aspect of the relationship (such as funding, the third sector offer on employability and third sector representation on Community Planning Partnerships) and offered new ideas for taking common goals forward, through networking, volunteering, social enterprise and by using the expertise of the third sector for prevention and early intervention.

Alan Benson, Chair of Glasgow’s Third Sector Forum, made an impassioned plea for a change to how third sector organisations are regulated and monitored.  Showing photographs of a flat in which a tenant had died from alcohol abuse, Alan pointed out that the landlord, a third sector community-based housing association, would be judged on how quickly it relet the flat, and not on the way the tenant had been living – and dying.   The public sector must see itself as a partner to the third sector, not a regulator of it.

The representatives attending also put forward their own ideas as to what should be in a partnership agreement between the Council and the third sector.  The day ended with a panel discussion with representatives of the four TSI partners and the Council answering questions from the floor.

The Council staff will be compiling all the feedback from the day and it will be used to inform a new partnership agreement between the Council and the sector, work which will be led by the TSI.

The live-stream of the event is now available on the Council’s YouTube page, so if you missed it there’s a chance to catch up with what was said on the day.

If you are interested in having your say on the relationship between the council and the third sector, please make sure you are engaged in your local geographic Voluntary Sector Network (VSN), or in one of the thematic VSNs in the city.  If you are unsure of which VSN best fits your organisation, please get in touch with the Third Sector Forum.  It is expected that the TSI will continue to use VSNs as the primary mechanism for engagement, as the TSI is very keen to support and build the third sector infrastructure in the city.