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UK Compact Needs Work on Relationships -Study

17 August 2010 at 10:40 am
Staff Reporter
In the UK there is still confusion regarding the nature of the third sector and its role according to new research into the effectiveness of the Compact between the Government and the country's Not for Profit organisations.

Staff Reporter | 17 August 2010 at 10:40 am


UK Compact Needs Work on Relationships -Study
17 August 2010 at 10:40 am

In the UK there is still confusion regarding the nature of the third sector and its role according to new research into the effectiveness of the Compact between the Government and the country's Not for Profit organisations.

A study of the levels of awareness, knowledge, understanding and use of the UK Compact, since the Commission for the Compact was set up in 2007, among Government and Non Departmental Public Bodies (NDPBs) has been produced by nfpSynergy and Digital Public.

The study found that the relationship between the sectors is not all positive, and a more balanced approach to the Compact was requested by study participants. For example, over a quarter of all respondents felt that the third sector did not recognise the constraints the public sector works under. However, a similar proportion of respondents were equally unaware that the Compact also has undertakings that the third sector is expected to follow in its dealings with government departments and NDPBs, suggesting more needs to be done to ensure the public sector realise the Compact is a two way process.

More fundamentally perhaps, the study says there is still confusion regarding the nature of the third sector and its role. Many research participants described a lack of organisational understanding regarding who or what the third sector is, a lack of awareness of the need to work with the third sector and a lack of knowledge about the detail of the protocol in place to aid that working (the Compact). Participants therefore commented on the need to raise public sector awareness both of the third sector itself and the benefits of partnership, prior to any implementation of the Compact.

The Compact between Government and the third sector in England was first published in 1998, with Codes of Practice on a number of policy issues being published. The Compact sets out commitments for both Government and the third sector to improve the way in which both sides work together for the benefit of communities and citizens; framing the relationship wherever a third sector organisation has dealings with government or NDPBs.
The Commission for the Compact was set up in 2007, in part as a result of a lack of Compact implementation within government.

The vast majority of respondents (91%) reported being aware of the Compact, and yet there is a wide variation in the extent to which it has been implemented. Almost half of respondents (45%) reported that that they had looked at the Compact but not implemented it with 28% stating they had implemented the Compact in their working practices. 46% of respondents rated their personal awareness of the Compact, as ‘good’ or ‘excellent’, compared to just a quarter of respondents who rated their department or organisation at a similar level of awareness. Many working in government departments and NDPBs feel their own knowledge of the Compact to be much stronger than their organisation’s awareness

The study's qualitative research found awareness of the Compact also differs markedly, with personnel and teams who regularly deal with the third sector or policy development showing better awareness and implementation of the generalities of the Compact rather than the specifics. Views and knowledge on the Compact could also be restricted to a respondents specific job role, so those in policy roles knew about the policy or consultation commitments in the Compact but not the financial ones and vice versa. However, those working in third sector-focused roles could be quite isolated as a number of respondents reported being the only person working on this topic in their organisation.

The survey responses also showed variation with regard to training or information. The majority of respondents reported receiving no training at all and barely a fifth said that they received an explanation of the Compact in their induction. However, a large proportion (74%) had found information from a more general array of sources. On the whole, government respondents reported higher access to information and training on the Compact than those from NDPBs.

Overall the research shows a high level of awareness of the Compact. However, these levels of awareness do not necessarily translate into implementation. The research indicates two contradictory views of the Compact, the first being that it is a philosophy or set of values with which to engage the third sector, and the second that it is a set of rules that govern these relationships.

The UK study suggested the following items of recommendation for the Commission for the Compact, government and the third sector:

  • The need to raise awareness across Government and NDPBs of the role and value of the third sector, and being clear why the Government wants to work with the third sector in the delivery of public services
  • Articulating the content and value of the Compact and how it can be used to promote good partnership working, and a right to challenge working practices in both government and the third sector
  • The need for a monitoring mechanism for both Government and NDPBs in order to increase accountability and measurability of the impact of the Compact
  • Increased practical help, peer support, case studies, e-learning/training
  • Senior buy in to ensure wider support and knowledge of the Compact outside third sector teams.

In Australia, the National Compact was set up in March 2010. The Compact agrees that Australian Government and the Third Sector will work together to improve social, cultural, civic, economic and environmental outcomes, building on the strengths of individuals and communities. The website is at

The UK report can be downloaded below (see attached).

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