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The Gathering - Maximising growth within the Third Sector

Last week we attended The Gathering, an event  organised by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) which was a place for people from the voluntary sector to network, showcase their work and learn from each other.

Whether it was topics around funding, employability or health and wellbeing, there were opportunities to listen, learn and be heard.


Third sector organisations are an integral part of a wider partnership within the economy, one which delivers a range of services to children, adults, families and communities. The sector has many strengths and assets from the skills, capacity and energy of its paid and volunteer workforce and communities.


The sector provides many positive contributions to society making a direct impact on the growth of the economy, the wellbeing of its citizens and the improvement of its public services. The wider environment in which third sector organisations and funders are working can at times however be increasingly difficult and uncertain.



Whilst challenges exist there still remain significant opportunities for the sector to grow, develop and look at how it delivers with the following themes coming through strong in discussions and workshops:


Partnerships for outcomes – Moving from transactional to relational

An underlying theme that was referenced throughout the event was that there is still an increasing focus by Third sector organisations to partner out of necessity in order to deliver and capitalise on the finance from the opportunities that exist.


Whilst finance will always be a key driver in any discussion if it is the sole focus it can lead to short term returns and partnerships which aren’t a natural fit. The Third sector places a heavy focus on partnerships and is rightly proud of the track record it has had to date in creating new and innovative opportunities as a result. With a renewed focus, partnerships can transition to providing better delivery and ultimately better long term returns both financially and operationally.


Relationships therefore need to move from ‘transactional to relational’ focusing instead on the potential value and impact of the partnership. Strategic relationships based on mutual value are key in delivering long term organisational objectives and engagement on each side.



Building on potential

If the Third sector is to move from the margins to the mainstream, it must strengthen its presence in diverse markets. It must capitalise on the appetite of consumers, public authorities, and businesses to buy ethically and sustainably.

(Source: Scotland’s Vision for Social Enterprise 2025)


By making the most of assets available to the sector – human and physical and by bringing in the right type of commercial and technical capabilities the sector can go from strength to strength. Investment in learning and the continued development of leadership will allow the necessary skills and resources to be developed so organisations can achieve their objectives and serve their stakeholders more effectively and sustainably.


Third sector organisations tend to be very adaptable and can grow and change very quickly so it’s important to ensure that there is enough support for the changes within the organisation.


Designing the right services – What if approach?

The way services are delivered in the third sector has evolved. New technologies and approaches enable economies of reach and scale. Often however services are still being designed around the way organisations or funders feel a service should work rather than supporting genuine user needs. Organisations miss opportunities to support the people they serve, and users feel frustrated by processes and ineffective touchpoints.

To design the right type of services the sector must be sure it is creating something which is fit for purpose and meeting the needs of its users and staff.


Time is therefore needed to understand the problem before designing solutions. Much like partnerships, organisations tend to try to solve problems – often too fast. Until the time is spent understanding a problem, you can’t be confident about what the solution is.


An approach that helps look at this is ‘what if’ which offers no boundaries to the thoughts or solutions required to solve the problem. It is future and solutions focussed. It frees organisations from very linear constraints. The key to developing this is to use insight and integrate users throughout the design process helping to make a significant difference to their experience of the service and the organisation.


Social Economy – Building capability

The Third Sector has a long history of pioneering new forms of business that blend social and commercial goals where business activity is used as a means to this end and not an end in itself. (Source: Scotland’s Vision for Social Enterprise 2025)


Through a combination of investment, business support and leadership development the sector can grow, develop and thrive. It requires the right blend of support to drive and move the sector from the margins to the mainstream of business markets.


The Gathering reminded those organisations that attended that they face the same issues as others and that the solutions exist for them and their users.


We must therefore encourage and support growth, ensuring that organisations can capitalise on the opportunities that exist.


At KURO we can help support you to take advantage of these opportunities. Whether it be through Research & Insight or Strategy & Delivery.

Want to know how we can do this for you? Get in touch

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