The Panel on the Independence of the Voluntary Sector is funded by the Baring Foundation. The Panel’s secretariat is provided by Civil Exchange and by DHA Communications.  To find out more about the Panel, click here.

The Baring Foundation

The Baring Foundation is an independent charitable foundation, which was established in 1969.  At present it distributes £2.5m in grants each year.  The Foundation’s purpose is to improve the quality of life of people suffering disadvantage and discrimination.  It aims to achieve this by making grants to strengthen voluntary organizations and by bringing organizations together and carrying out research and policy work.

The expanding role of many voluntary organizations in delivering a wide range of public services in partnership with the state has been accompanied by a concern that the agencies’ involvement poses a threat to their independence of action.  It was in this context that, in 2006, the Baring Foundation completed a review of its Strengthening the Voluntary Sector (STVS) programme.  The programme had been established in 1995 to assist voluntary organizations to carry out organizational development work to improve their efficiency and effectiveness.

In 2006, the trustees of the Foundation decided to add a focus to the STVS programme by concentrating on ways in which it might assist organizations involved in close relationships with government to pursue a set of freedoms.  Since 2006, the STVS programme has made 43 grants to voluntary sector organizations totalling £4m, published 6 reports, held an Independence Summit, carried out policy work and given presentations at conferences and workshops.  These activities have contributed to independence in practical ways but the Foundation has now decided to establish the new Panel to help raise the profile of the issue still further and stimulate reflection, debate and action.

Matthew Smerdon is Deputy Director of the Baring Foundation.  He leads the STVS programme, overseeing the direct grants to voluntary organisations and carrying out a range of research and development work on the wider subject of voluntary sector independence and relations with government.

Civil Exchange and DHA

Civil Exchange was founded by its Director, Caroline Slocock, earlier this year as an independent “link tank” which aims to be

  • A catalyst to help civil society and government work together in new ways.
  • A  resource for research, policy development, capacity building, awareness-raising and exchange, which brings together existing expertise and knowledge.
  • A consultancy service for organisations who want tailored support to help build stronger partnerships.

DHA is a specialist agency working solely in the public and not-for-profit sectors, established in 2000, by former special advisor Daniel Harris. DHA delivers strategic research, evaluation and policy response, and help clients assess, understand and develop stakeholder and partnership relationships by delivering bespoke intelligence. We also specialise in public relations and public affairs to reach policy makers, service providers and the public and have an enviable track record of success.