Talat Yaqoob, Chair of the recent CYPFEIF & ALEC Fund conference shares her impressions of the day
The last six months have been difficult for all of us, but particularly for those who already experience exclusion, isolation and disadvantage across society. Covid-19 has exacerbated existing inequalities as can been seen from the disproportionate impact on women, on Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities, on disabled people, on unpaid carers and migrants. Over this period, the Third Sector in Scotland has been exceptional in adapting and meeting the needs across communities. Whether it is ensuring that reliance on digital participation does not leave anyone out or providing emergency funds for those who have lost their livelihoods as a consequence of the pandemic. I have been in awe at how the third sector has responded and its resilience, especially when the sector already faced increasing demand and decreasing income. So, when I was asked to chair the CYPFEIF & ALEC Fund Annual Conference which focused on “Building Resilience”, I was more than happy to take part and hear how funded organisations have been delivering their work and crucially, how we can support one another and deliver a resilient sector through collectivism.
The Corra team put a lot of effort into making the event as interactive as possible, given that it had to be fully online and I have to commend them and Ross from the Third Sector Lab on making it engaging and participatory, which was no easy task! What shone through from the event was the innovation and integrity across the sector. The day’s third sector panel included four organisations with examples of just this, and the conversation covered the ways in which panellists had adapted for service users but also how they were supporting their staff and volunteers during this time. For example, Amina Muslim Women’s Resource Centre, who have set up access to counselling sessions for staff that are on the frontline and supporting others.
Of critical importance were the messages from third sector panellists and audience members, who emphasised how the few steps of progress we have made were being rolled back with the pace of change and responses during Covid-19. For example, Eddie McConnell, the CEO of Down’s Syndrome Scotland, rightly pointed out the roll back in language and attitudes towards disabled people and the problematic and disempowering nature of using words such as “vulnerable”. These are examples of progress we had thought we had made but reveal the superficial nature of some of that progress. In a matter of months we saw a return to language, attitudes and in some cases, particularly around social care, rhetoric, that we had hoped we had moved further on from.
The event also included a helpful panel with funders who have shown flexibility and trust in the organisations they support by extending funding timelines, allowing changes in how funds are used and who they are used for. Rightly however, the audience asked questions on why this flexibility and trust is only in the face of a pandemic, and how the learning from Covid-19, could become the status quo from funders, which would enable many organisations to respond more adequately to the needs of service users and be genuinely community-led.
All of these points being made, is a crucial reminder of just how important the Third Sector is, and why it has been my privilege to have worked in it for most of my career. Whilst there were many stories of hardship and in some cases, our resilience perhaps running low as we reach autumn, peppered throughout the day were inspirational stories, case studies, and most importantly, solidarity.
It was a joy to be part of the day, and I would like to thank again all of the team at Corra and the brilliant participants across the Third Sector.
Talat Yaqoob is a consultant, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and a member of the First Minister’s Advisory Council on Woman and Girls. An award-winning campaigner and writer, Talat’s experience spans education, women’s rights, workplace equality and inclusion, intersectionality, and political/civic participation. Talat works with charities, public bodies, and educational institutions to support ideas generation, policy influencing strategies, research analysis, and facilitate challenging but necessary conversations.
For a round up of the conference including recordings and resources, visit the event page.