The Future of the 3rd Sector Forum I am tempted to say ‘over to you’ at this point It sounds like a cliché to say it all depends on the members It really is the case, but let’s look at what we know about the future: Everything we do in the next few years will grow from the three agreed aims: Advocacy and Voice: developing a proper status in relation to the LSP, LAA process, and public sector bodies; ensuring that these bodies hear and respond to the 3rd sector in Norwich; ensuring that key boards and forums are properly connected to the 3rd sector through membership and two-way communication. Consultation and Communication: partly this will be ensuring that public sector consultations reach the right organisations and through them the right people; but also finding out for our own reasons the priorities and needs of the sector. Co-ordination and Sharing: this will mean creating networking opportunities (such as this), a newsletter so we can share ideas and concerns ‘offline’. This is all good stuff and the steering committee is committed to trying to get it to work. But the Forum is essentially user-led: Advocacy and Voice: We certainly intend that the statutory sector becomes more open to engagement with the 3rd sector. But we also hope that the sector (each of us) is willing and able to engage back – and to ensure that the communication and priorities are communicated back and forth. That is a job of work and we are all busy people. Consultation and Communication: We are hopeful that the statutory sector will become better at consulting with us before making key decisions. But we need to make sure we consult effectively with our clients, users, members and others otherwise we are speaking as experts not partners. Co-ordination and Sharing: Events, newsletters and so-forth are helpful and necessary ways to ensure we know what’s going on and can form partnerships and alliances. But of course, only if we contribute as well as read! So, though I am saying the obvious, the Forum really does need effort from all of us to work. It is also worth saying that the Forum is not an organisation – it is us. A secretariat we very much hope will continue (by grace of funders and NVS) to support its work, but not do its work. So the potential is there; the early signs are promising. And we believe the need is there for a more effective voice for the sector specifically within Norwich, now and as unitary status develops. So I hope that you will take the opportunity today to speak to the impressively labelled steering committee and NVS facilitators on each table. I hope you’ll consider standing for the steering committee when the next vacancies come up. And when you fill out the traditional evaluation forms, please add comments and ideas for us to chew over – what are the key issues we need to factor in over the next year? As I said – over to you!