Liz Barter, Ambassador for Isolation & Disadvantage
Uncertainty. The quality of being uncertain in respect of duration, continuance, occurrence, etc.; liability to chance or accident. Also, the quality of being indeterminate as to magnitude or value; the amount of variation in a numerical result that is consistent with observation. (Oxford English Dictionary).
Uncertainty. The word as overused as “unprecedented” over the last year. We are all living with uncertainty day to day, in millions of small ways. In my house in the last 48 hours, it’s been, will school open next week? What about nursery? Will hot lunches be back again? What about after school club? Will we be allowed a birthday party? Is Grandma allowed over? What about if she stands in the garden? What time is Boris on? All very short term uncertainties and, taken one at a time, they are manageable. I am extremely grateful for that.
The last lockdown gave even the luckier among us a sudden tour of how it feels to be really isolated and vulnerable.
In the charity sector, we know about uncertainty, and we instinctively and pragmatically move from “what?” and “will?” to “how?” How can we get this sorted?
A level of unpredictability is our normal. Our board members are often from corporate, financial and local authority backgrounds, and I have sat in many governance meetings trying to articulate why whichever strategic plan we are presenting does not and cannot offer the level of certainty that is expected in other sectors. We operate in a fluid and sometimes unpredictable landscape. We don’t know exactly when our existing contracts will be re-tendered– that depends on numerous factors outside of our control. We don’t know exactly what new opportunities will arise in our area…that depends on numerous factors outside our control. We don’t know how much each budget will be reduced by, or if our bid will win, that depends on….you see the point.
So, we work with our best guesses, we model likely scenarios, and we crack on with the job, trying not to give the treasurer and the company secretary an ulcer in the process.
Small charities and community groups have stepped up, and will keep stepping up, because that is what they do – fill the gaps, meet the need, find and help people who have fallen through the cracks in the welfare system.
The last lockdown gave even the luckier among us a sudden tour of how it feels to be really isolated and vulnerable. For people already living that reality day to day, the pandemic has been pretty merciless. Small charities and community groups have stepped up, and will keep stepping up, because that is what they do – fill the gaps, meet the need, find and help people who have fallen through the cracks in the welfare system.
Without downplaying how hard things have been for small caring organisations, we have to celebrate their ability to innovate and build on what are, at best, shifting sands. The Oasis Partnership launched the Bagnall Project in Chesham in 2020.
Through a serendipitous blend of philanthropy, charity and business networking, council support and tireless hard work, the Chiltern area now has this beautiful community resource offering way too many facilities to list here. There are more examples, of course, but this is one that encapsulates the voluntary sector’s ability to make amazing things happen even when we have no idea what the forecast is – and why we need to keep it healthy, now more than ever.