Having spent three years working for a small charity, running a support and signposting service for young people, I decided the time was right to move on. During my final week, one of our volunteers approached and asked (very sweetly and with the best of intentions) "So, is it time to get a real job then?".
In these straightened times, joining forces - sharing people, expertise, operating models and ambition - with another organisation can significantly improve a charity's chance of survival. Working in partnership also has the potential to reduce inefficiencies and unnecessary duplication across the charity sector, something we know is a concern for the public.
The voluntary and community sector has always championed the rights and needs of the disadvantaged; fought for equality; and stood up for social justice. Now is the time to advocate these aims as never before. Cuts and many other government policies are taking the country in the opposite direction. Charities cannot ignore this.
Over the last few decades, there has been an increasing trend to contract businesses to deliver public services. This trend, of course, goes back decades and indeed centuries but began to accelerate during Mrs Thatcher's Government and continued at an even greater pace during Tony Blair and Gordon Brown's thirteen years.
At a recent conference for chief officers from community and voluntary sector - the NAVCA Chief Officers' Residential Event (CORE), I posed a challenge to the sector and in particular with regard to the future role of support and development organisations at a local and national level. I raised this because of my commitment to the local voluntary and community sector and my passionate belief in the vital contribution that voluntary and community action makes to society.
Tragically for those whom it is intended to assist, a programme designed in very different economic conditions and based on a belief that market incentives would drive a range of providers to secure long-term employment for those who have been inactive in the labour market for a long period may end up not delivering.