VCSE in Greater Manchester - the next 10 years: Consultation

A Greater Manchester VCSE Policy Position Paper

Thank you for taking the time to complete this survey. Before each question we have provided a link to the section of the draft Executive Summary to which the question relates.

At the end of the survey, you have the the option to get more involved in this consultation, and/or development of an action plan once the Policy Paper is finalised in November 2019.

You can find a glossary here which explains some of the terms we use in the Paper.

About you / your organisation
Your feedback on the draft policy paper

1.0 The purpose of this paper

As VCSE leaders, the GM VCSE Devolution Reference Group  welcomes our part in the delivery of the Greater Manchester Model for Unified Public Services, and the description of the potential that we might play in an inclusive economy described in the Local Industrial Strategy. This policy position paper will describe the role and potential contribution of voluntary organisations, community groups and social enterprises (VCSE) as a force for positive benefit and part of the ‘system’ which will strive for change and improvement in the future of Greater Manchester.


2.0 Vision

Our Ambition for the VCSE sector in Greater Manchester is that:

Greater Manchester will have the most productive and modernised VCSE ecosystem in England, with consistently high-quality social, environmental and economic values, standards and delivery, supported by sustainable infrastructure and strong leadership, able to respond to the aspirations and demands of Greater Manchester citizens and communities. We want to eradicate poverty in a generation.

Greater Manchester will value the role that our local citizens and communities play in leading, shaping and fully engaging in this ecosystem. It will also support and recognise the vital role that everyone has in sustaining this through maintaining their own health, supporting neighbours and friends, caring for their environment and contributing to the local economy. 

Across the city region, partners will come together from the public, private, academic, voluntary, community and social enterprise sectors to create a fully integrated offer including local accountability and engagement infrastructures. This will align to, support and enhance asset based community development, the reform of services for the public and be central to sustaining a productive social economy.

3.0 Baseline - What is the VCSE sector and why is it important?

Greater Manchester is home to nearly 16,000 voluntary organisations, community groups and social enterprises working to improve the lives of citizens. The VCSE sector is active across every aspect of the local economy and reform including crime and disorder; sport, culture and leisure; skills, employment and enterprise; health and social care; housing and transport; environment and carbon reduction; poverty reduction; inclusive economy; and is supported by a range of infrastructure organisations. Social, environmental and economic inequality is the backdrop to everything that we do as a sector.


4.0 The 'offer' that VCSE organisations will bring

We have described the contribution that VCSE organisations could play in 10 years’ time for the positive benefit of Greater Manchester and its communities building from the objectives set out by the Greater Manchester Devolution VCSE Reference Group :

  • We are many. The army of staff, volunteers and supporters across the sector are a catalyst for change and a connector of people. 

  • Our role is critical for the economic success of devolution in Greater Manchester but also for the equally important cultural and social devolution that will help build a truly equal region

  • We can devise, develop and deliver solutions to some of the most challenging problems faced by Greater Manchester, breaking down barriers and building community confidence and cohesion, and ensure we move from crisis resolution to anticipation and prevention

  • We understand our communities. We can help drive people-powered change, catalysing social action and bridging the gap that can exist between public services and the people they serve


5.0 VCSE transformation

However, in order to realise our 10-year aim, we also know that the VCSE itself needs to develop and transform. We have recognised that there are a series of ‘enablers’ which will help the VCSE sector thrive and achieve its potential.

In order to achieve the transformation that we are hoping for, we have set out a number of drivers for change; reasons why we need to work differently together in the future.

  • There is a collective desire to step up to the mark as an equal partner with business and public sector as part of an inclusive and flourishing economy in Greater Manchester 

  • A desire to align with, shape, and where appropriate, lead implementation of the priorities set out in the Greater Manchester Strategy, and by the Greater Manchester Mayor 

  • The anticipated further impacts of a slowing economy and public-sector budget reductions

  • The recent dramatic reduction in the free reserves available to VCSE organisations 

  • Innovation in ways of working (for example in digital technologies) which are leaving parts of the sector behind

  • The need for additional VCSE sector capacity to respond to changes in need, complexity and demand for services and activities

  • An increased focus on ‘prevention’ and ‘managing demand’ for public sector services

  • The need for consistency of approach in partnerships and relationships between the public and VCSE sectors


We will focus on ‘people, place and partnerships’ – and use the structure of the GM Reform Model White Paper to give a framework to our transformation in order to create a thriving functional ecosystem.

We have recognised that there are six ‘enablers’ which will help the VCSE sector to grow, thrive and achieve its potential. They are:

  • Geographical alignment, strengthening our internal networks, infrastructure and communications

  • Development of our leadership, to reflect the diversity of our sector and enable us to be more accountable to each other

  • Development of our paid and volunteer workforce, and of its relationships with colleagues in other sectors

  • Adequate resources through a VCSE Investment Strategy, including money, capital assets and support

  • Early  involvement in the development of GM strategies and policies

  • Changes in national government VCSE policy and resourcing


5.1 Geographical alignment

In this Paper, we are proposing that the VCSE sector be thought of as an ‘ecosystem’ with a complex web of relationships and interdependencies built around a network of ‘anchor organisations’, and having distributive leadership. Our ecosystem is like a loofah; capable of expanding and contracting, whilst maintaining strength and purpose. It is also like a garden – growing, changing, adapting, living, breathing, and fragile, containing organisms whose lives depend on each other and the environment around them.


6.0 How will we know whether this Policy Paper has changed anything?

We need to know whether we have made a difference with this Policy Paper and will be looking for a way to capture outcomes, transformation and sustainability. We will jointly develop a set of process and impact outcome measures for the implementation of the work described in this Paper, using a ‘Theory of Change’ model to monitor, manage and improve the difference that is happening.

Use of a social value approach to commissioning, procurement and system activities will be an enabler to maximising the benefit from the work of VCSE organisations. Social value allows local voluntary, community and social enterprise providers to compete more effectively in a tender situation, and these providers will lever in additional funding from charitable and other sources outside of the local authority.

7.0 Next steps

This Policy Paper has been written by the GM Devolution VCSE Reference Group, whose members represent a cross section of VCSE activity in Greater Manchester. It is an articulation of the high- level policy aspirations of those VCSE leaders and we recognise that much more engagement is needed to co-produce the ways that this policy will be enacted. We will put in place a high level ‘Implementation Plan’ to deliver this Policy Paper, which has buy-in from all sectors and is underpinned by an Investment Strategy for the VCSE sector for the next 10 years. The Reference Group in its current form and level of resourcing does not have the capacity to manage a huge programme of transformation work and we will explore alternative and collaborative models of governance to drive forward this work.

To deliver this Policy Paper will take collaboration and partnership within our sector across different geographies, including national VCSE bodies where their support can be of value. We need to build better relationships and partnerships with the public and private sectors for mutual benefit. The risks of not starting the actions proposed in this paper are great. We know the strong interdependencies that VCSE organisations have with the public sector in Greater Manchester, and we know how public budgets has been devastated in the last nine years. We can see the impacts of public sector budget reductions, of climate change, of pollution and poor prosperity all around us. Resources, which should be going into preventing poverty, inequality and ill health, are instead going into helping people to cope with crisis.

VCSE organisations are rooted in the place and communities of Greater Manchester. They have the reach, scale and spread to really make a difference, but are stretched to (and beyond) capacity. The only solution is to work together building on our shared strengths and breaking down barriers between us, and focus on making Greater Manchester one of the best places in the world. 

Getting Involved

Thank you for agreeing to help with this consultation, we will send you a resources pack as soon as possible.

Thank you agreeing to help with implementation of the actions described in this Paper. Please can you give us a little more information about how you can help.

Thank you for your interest.

Please provide us with contact details so we can get in touch with you.

Data Protection

All information provided will be held securely by GMCVO in accordance with our Privacy Statement which you can read here. Information will be shared with members of the GM VCSE Devolution Reference Group in relation to this work only.

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