Management & leadership, Governance, Policy

A new government is never a silver bullet

Of course we must be hopeful about our new administration – but it must not turn to despair when it doesn’t do everything we want.

Like many of you, I suspect, DSC has seen the implementation of various new IT systems over the years.

The one thing I have learned is that staff get super-excited about them at the beginning, enthusiastic about everything that the new kit can do. Then the inevitable disappointment sets in when it turns out that it isn’t perfect and we have to do work-arounds.

No amount of me saying at the beginning: “Please manage your expectations – this will be better but it won’t be perfect,” has ever made a difference to the levels of surprise and disappointment when it turns out to not do everything we had hoped.

New governments feel a bit like this to me. There is always a lot of excitement and hope about any change of administration, certainly this government right now, and rightly so.

But one thing I can guarantee is that it will not do everything that we want. It will not always agree with us that our approach is the right one and it definitely won’t solve all of our problems.

For sure, we will see a decline in the ridiculous culture wars that our sector has fallen victim to over the past few years. There will be less divisive rhetoric (at least for now) than we have experienced previously.

This will undoubtedly reduce some of the knackering emotional and mental toll on our sector, which has been trying to simultaneously financially survive and stave off the misery of hateful discourse about those they serve.

I think we will see a bounce in the economy: not least because when people feel a sense of hope they tend to spend more, give more and invest more. This will filter down to our beloved charities.

And my experience is that with hope comes higher levels of volunteering. When folk feel hopeless and exhausted, their capacity to give time, mental and emotional energy to others is hugely limited. But when people feel optimistic about their own lives, and want to help others to feel hopeful about theirs, they show up for them.

There are bound to be huge disappointments ahead. There will be policies that matter to us that don’t get the attention we want – certainly in the short term.

What we must not do is lose that hope and fall into cynicism and despair when it turns out that this new government isn’t going to do everything we want it to; either because it doesn’t have the money, or because it doesn’t actually agree with us.

I’m reminded of what my dear friend Clare Mills, deputy chief executive of the Charity Finance Group, told the Civil Society Group last year about campaigning for change. Persistence overcomes resistance eventually!

We can’t sit back, sigh with relief and think that everything will be all right now. We have to keep putting our messages out there: communicating possibilities, reminding the government that we can help and, above all, find the work-arounds so the system – flawed as it is – delivers what those we serve need.

This article was originally written for and published on the Third Sector website.