Since the Reformation and the decline of the monastic orders in Britain charities have been established to relieve suffering and poverty and religious orders of all faiths have always considered looking after those in need and educating the young as a key part of their belief.
It was during the Victorian era that philanthropists started trying to make a sustainable difference to the world in which we live and there are many wonderful examples of charitable work which has gone on to leave a permanent mark on the world we live in. Social housing, the NHS and our universal education system all have their roots in this era.
However when you examine the story of these successes it is clear that genuine transformational change only happens when charities have worked in partnership with the State and business. Today the worlds largest transformational charities realise this.
“The problems we seek to solve are complex and demand the coordination and focus of many – leaders, governments, communities, and individuals around the world. Our work is challenging, but we know we can get there. We cannot succeed alone, but together we can work for a world where all can thrive”. - The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
If a charity wants to make a sustainable change it must have a clear understanding of the outcome that it wants to achieve; how will success be defined. It must also be clear about how much it alone can do and what part the rest of society must play.
For example a charity that wants to improve the quality of life in a particular community needs to have a clear picture of what this improvement will look like. This might look like 10 new apprenticeship opportunities; a 20% increase in visitor numbers; all pre-school children having access to play-groups; all the elderly having access to community activities and so on.
This can only be achieved in partnership. Businesses need to commit to providing apprenticeships. The Local Authority need to engage with services for children and the elderly. With leadership from the charity and a clear vision they are more likely to engage.
The charity must make sure that their vision is shared by the community itself.
In this example other organisations working in the community may also play a major part and need to be seen as partners in achieving the vision: the Village Hall group, the Guild, the Church can all be important parts of community life.
Finally, one of the main barriers to change is the existence of too many charities trying to achieve it. Money and effort is wasted on administration; mixed messaging gives government an excuse to do nothing and the community itself grows tired of hearing promises and begins to believe that change just isn't possible.
Let me finish with 2 quotes:-
“whatever life throws at us, our individual responses will be all the stronger for working together and sharing the load” - Queen Elizabeth II
“the road to hell is paved with good intentions” - St Bernard of Clairvaux