TCD’s Centre for Nonprofit Management’s annual summer school, Conflict and Consensus: Assumptions, Values and Roles in the Irish Nonprofit Sector which considered the role of the nonprofit sector in Ireland and how it can be best supported in Irish society, opened on June 21st last.
Commenting on the significance of the event, Andrew O’Regan, Programme Director at the TCD Centre for Nonprofit Management stated: “The Centre for Nonprofit Management’s Summer School is a means of meeting one of our chief aims, that is, to contribute to and facilitate dialogue concerning the role of and support for nonprofit organisations in Irish society”.
“As Irish society moves through increasingly rapid change in its economic and demographic structure, the varied roles played in the nonprofit field of organisational life assume increasing importance.”
“The time is therefore opportune for a searching debate on our collective understanding of nonprofit sector roles and for a close examination of those factors that enable these roles to be performed in a manner that delivers deep value to Irish society. We hope that the Summer School offers some stimulation towards that debate,” concluded the Programme Director.
The School comprised three key international speakers focusing on three important roles that the nonprofit sector plays concerning the expression of values, service delivery and public governance. These three presentations served to frame the debates which ensued in the afternoon by stimulating Irish participants to take a fresh look at our society and discuss possible visions of a future Ireland.
Speakers at the event included the CEO of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, in the UK, Stuart Etherington, who explored the role that voluntary and community organisations could play in bringing innovation to service delivery, drawing on experience from England.
Speaking at the Summer School, Mr Etherington said: “Voluntary organisations need to be clear about when they are providing innovation, on whose terms and why. There are a number of issues for the sector to consider, including management of risk, intellectual capital and ways of furthering charitable mission. Neither should it be assumed that innovation is always needed, or indeed that the voluntary sector is the best placed to provide it. ”
Professor Adam Habib, Executive Director: Democracy & Governance Human Science Research Council (HSRC) in South Africa discussed the role of civil society in public governance. His address questioned the prevailing model on how this should be organised, and through focussing on the empirical experience of South Africa, argued for a plural model of state-civil society relations.
Executive Director of the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organisations and Voluntary Action, (Arnova) in the US, Thom Jeavon questioned the missions and the means by which the goals of transmitting, promoting, or negotiating values were legitimately pursued. He stressed that the values NPO’s held, and their ability to enact those values through their work, are key to their legitimacy, which is then key to their ability to capture the resources they need to do that work.”
The Summer School’s participants included Irish and international nonprofit practitioners, academics, public policy makers and other stakeholders.