In every urban and rural area in England, CVSs (sometimes called local infrastructure organisations or support and development organisations) work behind the scenes to ensure that local voluntary and community sector organisations get the support they need.
They provide their members with a range of services and development support, and act as a conduit for the voice of the sector.
CVSs differ greatly in character and size, from small rural organisations with one or two paid staff, to large multi-million pound operations. Each is part of a network that is in touch with over 164,000 local third sector groups and organisations across the country. CVSs help the local third sector in a variety of ways:
Identifying and filling the gaps: By monitoring the services provided by the voluntary sector in its local area, a CVS is able to identify where the gaps are. It can then work with new groups to address unmet needs and ensure that existing groups are equipped to tailor their services to the changing needs of the community.
Supporting: By providing access to information on anything from funding and legal advice to training and quality assurance standards, CVSs aim to ensure that local groups and organisations have the knowledge, skills and resources they need to support the local community.
Enabling communication and collaboration: Encouraging local groups to share resources and to work collaboratively helps to build a stronger local sector. CVSs provide local groups and organisations with a forum for networking, enabling them to share good practice and expertise to form partnerships which can bid for public service contracts.
Providing a voice: CVSs act as a conduit, enabling representation of the diverse views of local groups and organisations to agencies such as the local authority and other public bodies. They promote two-way communication, so that the local sector is consulted on policy developments and can contribute to discussions and decision-making at a local level. They often take the lead in establishing a local Compact – an agreement between the sector, councils and other local public bodies.
Promoting strategic involvement: The local third sector has a vital role to play in local policy-making and planning. CVSs make sure that the sector is represented and involved in local strategic partnerships and other influential planning groups, and actively work with representatives to ensure they keep on top of key local issues.
To find out more visit the website of the National Association for Voluntary and Community Action at: http://www.navca.org.uk/