Geography Lesson

I have just picked up a bulletin promoting a series of workshops “designed specifically for small to medium-sized charities around the country

Guess where these events are being held. Maybe you are thinking one or two in each region? Or perhaps in areas which are some distance from the places where conferences, and other events are usually held? No – London, Edinburgh and Birmingham are the chosen locations for this programme.  And remember these events are geared to small and medium-size organisations – so groups which almost by definition will have limited time, capacity and finance for long distance travel.

It makes me so cross that national agencies and programme managers just don’t understand the geography of the UK and are often just plain lazy in their thinking. Do they not understand that groups in, say Devon and Cornwall, may need to spend around £200 and eight hours on travel to events in London or Birmingham and more if further afield. For some, a day trip will be simply impossible, so factor in the cost of an overnight stay too. And these are organisations for whom it can be really difficult to take time out from day to day operations.

And don’t tell me that webinars and social media can make these events accessible to those who cannot physically attend. Yes, they have their value but are no substitute for meeting up in person. Feedback from event participants almost always highlights the value of networking – often above the actual content.

I and the organisations I have worked with have been banging on about this for ages – but it seems not always with much effect. So, what we can we do. Well, I think we do need to keep banging on and telling the organisers of these events how difficult it is to attend – because of cost and time. But we also need to be more proactive: encouraging and enabling “them” to come to “us”; perhaps piggy-backing on existing events and networks and helping to source venue and local partners. One of things we are doing to help, is work with partners to use Impact Hub South West, originally developed by South West Forum, as a vehicle for sharing national and local expertise in impact measurement and evaluation. Look out for more information on events and support by joining our Facebook Group and on our Website

We need access to the insights, experience and expertise of national organisations and programmes and it is their duty not to discriminate, intentionally or otherwise, against organisations because of their geography.