Disclaimer: I am the Chair of EUConsult – a membership organisation for consultants to nonprofit organisations
Some of you will have seen my tweet last year on the publication of a much anticipated report into the UK civil society sector. It is an important report. But it is also a concerning report, advocating as it does a move away from working with consultants, assuming that all competencies as required can at all times be found in all organisations at all levels. What is most disappointing is that a consultant who is a member of a network that I belong to, was part of the panel that oversaw this report.
I am not here to defend consultants and consultancy at all costs. I, as much as anyone else, also decry those technically poor consultants who can do more harm than good or who do no good or harm at all. I also acknowledge that both consultants and civil society organisations can do much better at managing consultancies and relationships between consultants and their clients.
It is crucial however to acknowledge and understand the role played by consultants in civil society, from mentoring chief executives, to taking on interim roles, to training civil society staff and teams, to developing tools and strategies that are now widely used and praised. I am thinking specifically of the contributions of consultants such as Triangle Consulting who developed the Outcome Star (now widely used in the UK), or the development of Social Return on Investment (SROI) skills and tools in the UK to name but two initiatives. Indeed the very report that so derides consultants would not have been possible without the input from consultants.
My point is this: those of us who have deep and broad experience of civil society who have chosen to share that experience not with just a handful of organisations as members of staff or as trustees, but with as many organisations as we can possibly work with bring a valid and valuable contribution to civil society, pushing forward its development and delivering quality and excellence in the field every day. This contribution needs to be recognised and appreciated.
Civil society is broad and diverse and our role as consultants is a vital and important one that can contribute towards advancing social cohesion in the UK, Europe and around the world.