Cabinet Office
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Dame Mary Marsh appointed to review skills in voluntary sector

Nick Hurd, Minister for Civil Society, has appointed Dame Mary Marsh to lead a review into leadership and skills in the voluntary sector.

Dame Mary will draw upon her impressive experience working with the charity and voluntary sector, which includes her being the founding director of the Clore Social leadership Programme and eight years as Chief Executive of NSPCC, to examine how effectively existing support is meeting the requirements of the sector. She will look at how businesses and professionals can share their expertise with charities and social enterprises, and recommend ways in which the sector can make a dynamic push to upgrade and maintain its skills to meet the challenges of the future.

Dame Mary’s appointment follows the recent Cabinet Office publication of a paper outlining progress in making it easier to set-up and run charities and social enterprises. This includes efforts to enhance skills and capability within the sector; to improve access to resources, volunteers and support networks; and to simplify regulation and to cut red tape.

Nick Hurd, Minister for Civil Society, said:

Charities and social enterprises must meet the reality of tough economic conditions head-on and be ready to play a greater role in the delivery of public services, if they are to fulfil their potential to help create a better, stronger society. I have asked Dame Mary Marsh, with her long history of leadership in this field, to examine how the capabilities that exist now will need to adapt if the sector is to successfully navigate the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

Dame Mary Marsh said:

All of us who are committed to securing effective social action know that there is an urgent need for us to gain new skills to lead and contribute in a radically changed context.  We are challenged to do things differently, learn from those doing this most effectively and look forward to be more prepared to take advantage of the emerging changes ahead.  The review must help us focus on the most urgent gaps in our capability and find smart ways of overcoming them.

The review will bring together key figures in the sector and from business to examine what challenges and opportunities exist in this area and how they could be responded to effectively, supporting the sector to deliver positive social action in a tough financial climate.

Cliff Prior, Chief Executive of UnLtd said:

Our sector and the environment in which we operate are changing dramatically, and fast. Our leaders and workforce face ever greater challenges, so we need the best and most relevant opportunities to develop our skills, confidence and capabilities. This review is timely and vital.

The government is committed to support the voluntary sector and has been investing to ensure front-line charities receive effective support. Over £30 million has already been distributed through the Transforming Local Infrastructure Programme to help local charities modernise, become more efficient, target their services and build support networks.

More than seventy partnerships of local support and development organisations across England have received grants from the fund to transform their services and provide high quality, joined-up support to frontline charities. These projects will also make it easier for organisations to forge better links with local businesses, develop stronger partnerships with local public sector bodies and for people to volunteer.

Stephen Hammersley, Chief Executive of Community Foundation Network said:

Community foundations exist where the worlds of civil society, private sector business and public sector intersect; we hope to contribute our understanding of the leadership challenges and opportunities that result when all three come together and support this review to enable positive change in communities.

The Office for Civil Society (part of the Cabinet Office) has also recently extended its support to Skills Third Sector, the VCSE sector’s skills body, with a grant of £250,000 towards their work ensuring that VCSE organisations have the people with the right skills to be effective and resilient in meeting the changing needs of society.

Notes to editors

  1. Dame Mary Marsh and Nick Hurd will be sharing a platform at Skills Third Sector’s forthcoming charity skills conference to highlight the importance to success of investing in skills and leadership development. Skills Third Sector is the VCSE sector’s umbrella body for skills development. The conference is being held in central London on November 20th. For more details and bookings see:
  2. Dame Mary Marsh will undertake the review with the support of a range of stakeholders and key representatives in the sector, with administrative support provided by the Office for Civil Society (part of the Cabinet Office). The exact membership and terms of references will be finalised shortly. The review is expected to report back in spring of next year.
  3. Dame Mary Marsh has been a major figure in the development of skills and leadership in the sector, recently recognised with the Luke FitzHerbert Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2012 Third Sector Excellence Awards. She played a key role in 2009 helping to establish the main sector body with responsibility for skills, and is currently Director of the Clore Leadership Programme. Dame Mary is an alumnus of London Business School and is currently a member of their governing body. She was also a member of the National Council of the Learning and Skills Council and a trustee of Young Enterprise.

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