New Book Advocates NFP Manifesto for Change
7 April 2011 at 2:21 pm
A soon-to-be-published Australian book controversially sets out a radical manifesto for change in the Not for Profit sector, including expunging the word ‘charity’ from the vocabulary.
The book called It’s the Community, Stupid! also takes aim at government, corporations and the education system.
Author and Not for Profit expert, Colin Ball says over the past ten years Australia has witnessed a plethora of official enquiries into what are variously termed ‘Not for Profit’, ‘community’, ‘voluntary’, ‘charitable’, ‘public benefit’ or ‘non-governmental’ organisations.
Yet he says little or nothing has come of any of them.
In It’s the Community, Stupid! Ball asserts that this is probably not a bad thing saying most of them started out from the wrong place (regulation) and headed inexorably in the wrong direction (more regulation).
And he is equally sceptical about the recently established Office for the Non-Profit Sector and Non-Profit Sector Reform Council, as well as the March 2010 announcement of a ‘National Compact’ between the Federal Government and community and Not for Profit organisations.
Based on his 40 years of experience of working in both the voluntary/community sector and government, including 7 years leading the Commonwealth Foundation, the international agency supporting the sector across 54 countries, Ball says the book sets out very different starting points and challenging new directions.
He says the starting points are people and their efforts for the ‘common good’, illustrated and illuminated by their spontaneous and massive responses to assisting the victims of recent floods and bushfires; Australia’s rich history of ‘mutual aid’ societies in the 19th century; the positive learning that can be drawn from post-WWII experience of empowerment and development in the so-called ‘Third World’; and the experience of innovative initiatives in countries as diverse as India, Brazil and Italy, where people’s participation is strong and effective.
The directions Ball identifies are set to be highly controversial:
- scrapping ‘charitable law’ entirely, even expunging the word ‘charity’ from the vocabulary;
- recognising instead that openness, ‘inclusivity’ and ‘for the common good’ are the essential defining characteristics of voluntary/community sector organisations;
- distinguishing (when tax concessions and other benefits are given) between genuinely independent organisations and those that have become agents for the delivery of government welfare services;
- ending the imperialist behaviour and attitudes of what Ball calls the big and powerful ‘institutionalised voluntary organisations’; and above all,
- liberating people’s potential rather than regulating it.
Ball was born in the UK and started his working life in the late 1960s as a teacher, in Malaysia (as a VSO volunteer in 1961/62), the UK, Ghana and Nigeria. Then, after a year as a taxi-driver, during which he co-wrote his first book, Education for a Change (Penguin Books, 1973), he worked for some years as a civil servant in the Home Office and the Department of Employment in the late 1970s. During that time he co-wrote his second book, Fit for Work?
Ball then established an independent Not for Profit research and consultancy organisation specialising in social and community enterprise, based in London, the Centre for Employment Initiatives. Through this work he gained an international reputation for his ideas and reports for international and inter-governmental agencies including the UN, EU, OECD and Oxfam and for governmental and non-governmental organisations in countries as diverse as Canada, the Sudan, the Gambia, South Africa, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Vietnam and Brunei.
He moved to Brisbane in 1994 then moving overseas again to take up the role at the Commonwealth Foundation in 1997. He returned permanently to Australia in 2005.
The book is due to be released on May 7, 2011 via his website www.colinball.com.au