The VCSE (Voluntary, Community & Social Enterprise) Strategic Forum was established to connect Somerset's voluntary, community and social enterprise sector with key county-wide public and private sector agencies, including senior staff from Somerset County Council (SCC), Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group, and District Councils.
Somerset Community Foundation host the project and it's funded by contributions from SCC, Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group and the VCSE, with additional administration support from a part-time Strategic Advisor, SCC and Spark.
The aim of the project is to remain flexible and able to respond to changing circumstances and opportunities at all times. A multi-agency Steering Group oversees the work of the Forum and wherever possible the Forum works with existing organisations to support their initiatives.
Improving engagement with the public sector
There are three cross-sector VCSE Strategic Forum meetings a year, which bring together a broad range of VCSE organisations representing different communities with public and private sector partners. Local authorities, Office of Police & Crime Commissioner, Office for Civil Society SW, Somerset Chamber of Commerce and others, meet to network, share key strategic information, build trusting relationships and encourage collaboration.
Improving sector representation
It's important that the VCSE Strategic Forum is represented on key county-wide strategic groups and that people who volunteer to advocate on behalf of the VCSE have support to do this as well as a platform to communicate with the wider sector. The Forum acts as a broker for these roles and the Somerset VCSE Strategic Forum website provides a neutral platform for communication.
Developing sector leadership
The VCSE Strategic Forum is keen to support the training and networking opportunities provided by partner organisations and one of the ways they are doing this is through an annual Leaders Conference to bring speakers with a national profile to Somerset. In 2017 speakers from the Open University School for Voluntary Sector Management and thinktank New Philanthropy Capital were keynote speakers on the theme of Collaboration. For 2018 the theme is The Future of Social Action in Somerset.
The VCSE Strategic Forum recognises the vital role of Trustees in providing strategic leadership for organisations large and small and will continue to focus on promoting existing opportunities for trustee development, linking with the Association of Chairs as well as running our Trustee Gathering in November, during national Trustee Week.