Do you want to help inform Defra’s policy making?

We are recruiting for four positions on Defra’s Civil Society Advisory Board.  This opportunity is open to anybody with a strong understanding of civil society and its interface with Government.  The board meets quarterly.  Applicants will join the Board in a personal capacity.

We are seeking applications from people able to provide authoritative, high-level advice to Defra Ministers and senior officials about the broad range of Defra’s policy interests and the Department’s relationship with civil society.

Defra’s Civil Society Advisory Board was established in April 2009 as a non-executive advisory group. The role of the Board is to:

  • provide advice to Defra’s Ministers, Management Committee and policy officials about the most effective ways of engaging with civil society in England, to contribute to the delivery of Defra’s priorities and related Departmental Programmes;
  •  provide support and challenge to the Department on the decentralisation of power and responsibility and the effective promotion of Big Society approaches;
  • provide advice about the civil society implications of Defra’s policies or operations;
  • provide advice about the ways in which Defra can further embed the principles of the Compact into its day to day operations.

As a result of Board members stepping down, there are now four vacancies which we are seeking to fill by the end of April 2011.  If you are interested in applying to be a member of the Board, please see the Civil Society Advisory Board – guidance for applicants and the Civil Society Advisory Board Application Form.

The deadline for applications is Friday 1 April 2011.

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Francis Maude launches Pathfinder mutuals
The first wave of Pathfinder mutuals have been launched by Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office.  The Pathfinders will be run by entrepreneurial public sector staff, who will take over delivery of their services. 

As part of the Government’s commitment to support the innovation and entrepreneurialism of front line staff, twelve fledgling public service spin-offs have been chosen to be Pathfinders for the mutuals initiative.  These pathfinders will be trailblazers for the rest of the public sector – helping Government establish, by learning from the front line, what type of support and structures will best enable the development of employee-led mutuals on an ongoing basis.

The pathfinders will be supported by expert mentors from some of the country’s most successful businesses and leaders in employee ownership models.  All the mentors have offered their support for free and will work with staff in the Pathfinder projects to help them develop a range of sustainable, efficient and pioneering employee-led services.

The mentors will include staff from the John Lewis Partnership, probably the country’s best-known co-owned business, as well as from PWC, KPMG, Tribal, Baxi Partnership, Care and Share Associates, Sunderland Home Care Associates, Central Surrey Health, Local Partnerships, Godrevy, GLL (Greenwich Leisure), and The Office for Public Management will also be providing mentors.  Also, leading lights in this field, like Lord Victor Adebowale of Turning Point, have offered to be mentors.

The Pathfinders have a range of different innovative business models.

The Pathfinders are:

  • An awarding body setting up as a mutual by a consortium of FE colleges;
  • The London Partnership – creating a ‘Reducing Multiple Disadvantage’ Community Interest Company from a group of DH, LA, PCT and NHS staff;
  • The Department of Health’s London and SE Learning Disability Team forming a regional Community Interest Company;
  • Hammersmith and Fulham Children’s Services exploring new models of delivery with staff, possible commercial partners and neighbouring local authorities;
  • North East Essex PCT spinning out into a Community Interest Company;
  • The creation of a social enterprise for delivery of housing support services to vulnerable people in Mansfield, bringing together a range of public sector workers;
  • The Lambeth Resource Centre exploring options for coproducing services with employees, service users and third sector organisations to provide rehabilitation support for people with physical and sensory impairment;
  • NHS employees forming a social enterprise to provide joined up services for homeless people in Leicester;
  • Teaching and administrative staff planning to set up a Trust to run Newton Rigg Agricultural College in Cumbria;
  • The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea working with employees to examine the potential for different models of employee led youth support services;
  • Integration of Community Health and Adult Social Services in Swindon into a cooperative; and
  • Westminster City Council working with employees in Children’s Services and neighbouring local authorities to move towards creating an arms-length mutual organisation.

For further information please see the Cabinet Office press announcement.

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Greenprint to 2050

[This is a guest post from Trewin Restorick from Global Action Plan.  Trewin is a member of the Defra Civil Society Advisory Board]
Climate Squad
Climate Squad, now 1 year old, is embarking on a new adventure that will outline the steps youth want to take for a low carbon 2050 – empowering them to take charge and shape their future!

Launched in June 2010 at the Barbican Centre in London, the Greenprint to 2050 will gather over 1000 young people’s visions of 2050 to create a report outlining what young people want their low carbon future to look like. The Greenprint covers six key topics: education and employment, energy, healthcare, home life, leisure and transport.

The Greenprint encourages young people to think positively about taking action on climate change. After creating a positive vision of how they would like their low carbon future to be, young people will be equipped with an invaluable tool – a goal, a dream and a vision to aspire to!

Once complete, Climate Squad will work with volunteers towards achieving the vision. The first step will be to present the Greenprint to political leaders and corporates at the House of Commons – demonstrating the desire for change and taking the first step towards turning the vision into reality.

16-25 year olds can take part across the country through online questionnaires, group workshops and online debates. Climate Squad also works with youth groups, schools and universities across the country to deliver Greenprint workshops.

If you are interested in the workshops or would like more information please e-mail

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Free Parliament workshop on energy and the green economy

The Houses of Parliament is holding a free workshop for groups and organisations interested in issues relating to energy and the green economy, on how to engage with Parliament’s scrutiny of legislation.

The workshop is free to attend and open to any individual or organisation with an interest in energy and the green economy.  The workshop will be held on Friday 10 September 2010.  It will be strictly non-partisan.

Further details of what the workshop will cover can be found on this page on the Parliament website.  For more details on the workshop, please call Daniel Wood (07917 488839) or Matt Ringer (020 7219 4623) in the Parliamentary Outreach Team.

Please note that places are limited so you are asked to telephone or email to book in advance.

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Consultation on new DFID fund for UK civil society organisations

A new fund that will benefit a range of small to large UK based civil society organisations will be launched by DFID this year.  The objective is to support poverty-fighting groups who focus on delivering the Millennium Development Goals – targets to improve the lives of the world’s poorest, adopted in 2001.  As part of developing the Fund, DFID is inviting views from those with an interest in civil society funding.

The Fund is being designed with two initial funding windows, tailored to different types and sizes of organisations:

  • Innovation Grants: for small UK-based civil society organisations (CSOs) with an annual average turnover of less than £500,000 encouraging innovative approaches to poverty reduction;
  • Impact Grants: for UK-based organisations working on poverty reduction programmes at larger scale in one or more poor countries.  This window will also be available to locally registered CSOs in countries where DFID has a country office.

If you would like further information please see the DFID press release launching the consultation.  The closing date for the consultation is 22 September 2010.

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Have your say: embracing the contribution and needs of rural communities in Big Society

At a time when organisations and individuals are encouraged to have greater involvement in the running of public services as part of the Government’s Big Society initiative, there are concerns that many organisations are experiencing or facing funding cuts including in rural England.

The Commission for Rural Communities (CRC) would like to hear your views and experiences, to help them advise Government on ways of fully embracing the contribution and needs of rural communities in the Big Society.

The Commission for Rural Communities is keen to show that rural communities and organisations have already embraced the community approach to identifying and tackling their needs that lies at the heart of the Big Society approach.  However, they also want to ensure that central and local government recognise, celebrate and more importantly support the continuation of your efforts, for the benefit of rural people.

Defra is commencing a project jointly with the CRC to ensure that we can advise government departments and their Ministers how to fully embrace the contribution and needs of rural communities in the Big Society.

One of the first opportunities, with your help, is to put something to the Rural Affairs Minister in early September, about the effect of the economic climate and current and planned changes in public spending on civil society organisations working with rural communities.  The CRC will follow this up at the beginning of October with a fuller report.

It is because of this early opportunity to inform Defra Ministers of the impact of public spending cuts on civil society organisations working in rural communities that CRC is asking for your help to answer the questions in the current call for evidence.  Any information you can provide to CRC by 27 August will be used to inform a report to the Rural Affairs Minister in early September.  For this first short report, the CRC would particularly welcome the experience of organisations working to improve economic opportunities and viability of rural areas and people.  This might include for example organisations who are working to improve the employability of young people or the unemployed, that undertake training, represent local businesses, or who are working on community development or regenerating rural and community assets.  This will allow us to alert Defra ministers to current experience and views of how the Big Society will help this work.

By the week commencing 13 September CRC would welcome information from organisations which work with any issues and communities in rural society to improve their environmental, social or economic wellbeing and future. This should include those from the first group who found that meeting the August deadline too challenging.

For further information, and to download the specific questions in the first stage of the call for evidence please see this page on the CRC’s website.

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Wildlife and Countryside Link informs Defra’s spending decisions

The Wildlife and Countryside Link have produced a paper which sets out the Link’s thoughts on how Defra might be able to reduce its budget whilst supporting the key aims outlined in the coalition programme.

The paper covers the following topics:

  • Principles for decision making;
  • Front line services which need to be protected;
  • Different ways for delivering Government’s natural environment objectives;
  • Areas of Defra spend where efficiencies might be found.

You can download a copy of the paper from the Link’s website by clicking here.

Please see this blog post if you are interested in commenting on Defra’s priorities.

You might also be interested in the Natural Environment White Paper.

Posted in 1 Advocacy voice campaigning policy, 2 Sustainable living, 7 Understanding the sector | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Big Society can help tackle ragwort risk

Tackling Common Ragwort can be a practical example of the Big Society in action says Agriculture Minister Jim Paice.  With the Common Ragwort season in full bloom, Mr Paice is calling on landowners, local groups and nature-lovers to work together to help control the toxic weed.  Mr Paice said:

This little flower may look like a pretty yellow daisy but it spreads easily and can poison horses and other animals – so tackling this problem can be a practical example of the Big Society working together to be part of the solution to control the spread.

Landowners, conservation and community groups can all help by being on the lookout and to help remove this weed, where there’s a risk that livestock will eat it, by following the advice in the ragwort code of practice.

If you’re worried about the risk to your livestock from ragwort on neighbouring land, get in touch with the owner to let them know. And if a local solution can’t be found, you can call Natural England if the problem looks like it’s getting out of hand.

More information can be found in the Defra press notice.  Guidance on how to identify Common Ragwort and how to control it can be found in the Code of Practice on How to Prevent the Spread of Ragwort, which can be found here on the Defra website.  More information is also avaliable on the Natural England website.

Posted in 2 Sustainable living, 3 Public services | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Free support for community owned food businesses from Making Local Food Work

Making Local Food Work are currently offering free specialist support to any existing community-owned, local food businesses.  They are also offering a Skillshare service which gives peer to peer learning via mentoring or study visits.  The Making Local Food Work website provides more detail:

Making Local Food Work can help community food enterprises across England with some of the challenging aspects of running a business. We have a range of mentors and specialists which can help you with a range of issues whether this is developing a business plan, a marketing plan, putting in place a legal structure and governance arrangement or ensuring that you are complying with the latest legislation. We also work to map local food networks across England.

Making Local Food Work helps specific types of community food enterprises in many ways. We provide dedicated support to:

  • Farmers’ markets
  • Community Supported Agriculture
  • Country Markets
  • Food Co-operatives and Buying Groups
  • Local food hubs
  • Community-owned shops and other rural shops

For full details please see the Making Local Food Work website.

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Defra responds to the public’s comments on the Coalition Programme

The Coalition: Our Programme for Government was opened to public comment on 20 May 2010. 

Defra’s response to the public comments on the section on environment, food and rural affairs was published on 30 July 2010, and can be found half way down this page.  The three main areas commented on were hunting with dogs, the culling of badgers and food policy.  In addition to these three main areas, comments were also received on reducing waste and wildlife protection.

You can find monthly updates on Defra’s progress against its commitments in Defra’s draft Structural Reform Plan (which is the Coalition Government’s tool for ensuring that departments are accountable for the implementation of the reforms  in the Coalition Agreement) on this page of the Number 10 website.

You can see responses to all other issues raised by the public on the Coalition Programme by visiting this page.

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