Communities 1st CEO Blog

What's in Store for 2024?  


While it may be a bit late for "Happy New Year!" greetings, I invite you to approach this blog with the spirit of new beginnings and forward-thinking. As we embark on 2024, our traditional January reflection takes on new significance, particularly for the charity, voluntary, and community sectors.  This year promises to be pivotal, especially for charities and the wider voluntary and community sector.  

Reflecting on 2023, our resilience in the face of uncertainty stands out. Embracing uncertainty fosters innovation and as we move into 2024, focusing on our journey rather than the destination will be key to navigating these unpredictable times. 


Escalating Demand  


The financial struggles faced by local authorities, combined with rising poverty and housing insecurity, have placed an unprecedented burden on charities, especially smaller ones. We’re told that this surge in demand has led to an overwhelming influx of funding applications. Maintaining fair, transparent practices amidst such pressures is a formidable challenge, affecting both operational efficiency and staff wellbeing, concerns that are echoed across our membership. 


A Double Whammy of Elections 


2024 is an election year, both in the UK and the US. With the UK election tipped for November, close to the US election on 5th November, we're braced for an intense political climate. This heightened atmosphere will likely bring increased scrutiny for charities, particularly those engaged in polarised areas.  In response, we're developing comprehensive policy statements (click here for more information) and will host a pre-election seminar at our July conference to support our members through these times. 

Polls suggest a Labour-led government is likely; this could bring pivotal policy changes impacting our sector. In this ever-evolving political landscape, it’s crucial for us to remain informed and flexible in our strategic approaches. The Labour Civil Society Summit provided valuable perspectives on the envisioned role of the Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) under a mission-led Labour government. A key emphasis was placed on fostering partnerships and collaborations, recognising the VCS’s vital role in driving societal progress. As the general election draws near, the overarching challenge for our sector is to ensure that the concept of societal renewal is translated into tangible, actionable policies, irrespective of the election's outcome and the subsequent government in power.


Climate Change 


With 2023 being the hottest year on record, the urgency of climate action is undeniable. In an election year, where climate issues might become political tools, the charity sector's role in advocating for and implementing environmental sustainability becomes increasingly vital. 

As we delve into 2024, understanding and incorporating sustainability insights will be crucial for our sector. Environmental sustainability is not just a global concern but a local one, impacting the communities we serve and the operations of our organisations. 


Health in an Ageing Society 


Professor Sir Chris Whitty's report on health in an ageing society brings to light the growing need for action on common diseases among older adults. The charity sector must consider the potential impact of these health disparities and explore ways to contribute to solutions, whether through advocacy, support services, or partnering with healthcare providers. 


AI in the Charity Sector 


The use of AI tools within our sector is increasing, offering exciting possibilities but also posing challenges around transparency and potential biases. Addressing these issues will be a key focus in 2024, and we're looking forward to exploring this further at our AI seminar during the July conference.


Philanthropy and Donor Relations 


Next month, the Charity Commission for England and Wales is expected to reveal its new strategy. This strategy is likely to reflect a broader, global trend towards fostering 'more and better' philanthropy. As countries like Australia and Ireland set ambitious philanthropic targets, we keenly await to see if the UK will follow suit. 

My Giving Tuesday experience last year reinforced the importance of donor stewardship. Personalised acknowledgements and regular updates are not just niceties; they're essential for transforming one-time donors into lifelong supporters. This approach is vital for building sustainable, long-term relationships. 


Social Value in the Public Sector 


With the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012, the UK has made strides in integrating social value into public procurement. As CEO, I've seen the importance of genuine sustainability efforts and responsible supply chain management. The private sector is also increasingly adopting social value principles, a trend that is likely to grow. Click here on how we are working with the private sector to engage with the VCS locally. 


Learning and Growth


In 2024, the emphasis on learning and growth offers substantial benefits. Setting clear learning goals paves the way for both personal and organisational development, fostering a culture where progress and innovation are continuously sought. The value of cultivating a learning-centric environment cannot be overstated; it not only enhances the enjoyment and engagement in professional development but also nurtures a more dynamic and adaptable organisational ethos. Sharing these ambitions and seeking collaborative support amplifies this impact. Furthermore, our suite of 20 face-to-face courses, planned throughout the year, offers practical, hands-on opportunities to deepen this learning journey, fostering a community of shared knowledge and expertise that directly benefits the vital work we do in our communities. Click here for more information


Over to You 


As we navigate the challenges and opportunities of 2024, our commitment to learning, innovation, and sustainable growth remains steadfast. I invite your insights: what do you foresee for 2024? Have I overlooked any key trends? Join our conversation through our events and resources, and let's collaboratively shape a resilient and impactful year for our sector. 


 Stephen Craker, 

 Chief Executive, Communities 1st.


Meet Stephen Craker