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The Journey Continues: The Second Report to Canadians on Implementing An Accord Between the Government of Canada and the Voluntary Sector

C. Progress on Priorities

In spite of the challenges and transitions over the past year, the Government of Canada and the voluntary sector have made progress in bringing the Accord and Codes of Good Practice on Funding and Policy Dialogue to life, in both sectors. Building on many of the processes and tools already in place to enhance awareness and guide the evolving relationship, the sectors worked together and individually to fulfill the joint commitments made last year.

This section of the report describes the major accomplishments in the six priority areas for action identified in last year’s report:

  • continue to build the relationship
  • identify, use and promote good practices and lessons learned
  • hold a regular meeting between the Ministerial Consultative Committee and voluntary sector representatives
  • hold a meeting between voluntary sector representatives and departmental champions
  • continue to advance collaborative work with respect to regulation and taxation of charities, capacity building and strategic investment
  • collaborate to advance other commitments including an agreement on next steps, the development of a ‘voluntary sector lens’ and the examination of models for dispute resolution
Also included in this section are a series of “progress markers” summarizing some of the key findings from research conducted by each sector during the summer of 2004. A more detailed accounting of these and other achievements of the federal government and the voluntary sector are provided in two background papers to this report see the VSI Web site at www.vsi-isbc.ca

PROGRESS MARKERS

In the voluntary sector:

  • Respondents to the Web survey commented positively on the professional relationships between government staff and organization members, staff and volunteers.
  • Respondents had a number of concerns about the relationship – mostly focusing on processes related to funding and protocol, which some characterized as burdensome or restrictive.
  • Respondents reported progress in exemplifying the practices outlined in the Accord and Codes – for example, by making them part of the way they work with funders, in proposal and report writing and in relationships with other organizations, and by diversifying funding sources.
  • A number of suggestions were made for increasing awareness of the Accord and Codes in the voluntary sector, including: having local workshops and information sessions; targeting umbrella groups in the sector; and making presentations at national and regional conferences.
  • Awareness of the Accord was slightly higher than awareness of either the Funding Code or the Policy Code.
  • Some of the respondents had distributed copies of the Accord/Codes to their staff/boards; while others had discussed them with their boards or attended an information/training session.

In the federal government:

  • Almost half of the departments/agencies responding to the departmental survey said their relationship with the sector had stayed the same over the past year; one quarter said it had improved.
  • Some of the improvements cited were: a greater level of confidence and engagement in constructive dialogue as a result of national conferences; enhanced sharing of good practices; and greater involvement by the voluntary sector in departmental activities.
  • Generally, departments reported progress in raising awareness of the Accord and Codes since the last reporting period, although some identified a continuing need for additional buy-in from senior levels in order to ensure the implementation of the Accord and Codes in their department or agency.
  • Priorities for the next 12-18 months include: raising awareness; developing a plan to put the principles into practice; exploring options for organizational structures for effectively promoting the Accord and Codes; and seeking out new partnerships with the sector.
  • More than half of those responding indicated a “medium” awareness of the Accord in their department or agency.
  • Almost half of the responding organizations said they had an awareness strategy, while many others indicated they took a “less formal” approach to awareness raising.
  • Some of the most commonly used awareness-raising techniques are: distributing the Accord and Codes of Good Practice; briefing management; making presentations to staff; and placing articles in departmental newsletters.

WHO RESPONDED …

… in the voluntary sector

  • most operate at the local level, while fewer function at the national or provincial/ territorial levels and a small number have an international focus
  • the largest portion work in the health, social development and community/ economic sectors

… in the federal government

  • 47 departments and agencies
  • responding departments/ agencies have relationships with the voluntary sector ranging from strong to weak – many departments said it would be difficult to deliver programs without the sector’s help, while a few said they have no relationship with the voluntary sector

BUILD THE RELATIONSHIP

In coming together through the VSI, the Government of Canada and the voluntary sector committed to enhance their relationship in the interest of mutual goals. In fact, the two sectors share a long history of joining forces, and many departments and voluntary sector agencies have already forged enduring relationships. The Accord goes further, committing each sector to build on these relationships, while the Codes of Good Practice on Funding and Policy Dialogue provide some of the processes and tools to do so.

Strengthening links between the sectors

On May 19 and 20, 2004, the sectors collaborated on two workshops to promote closer links between the government and the voluntary sector, and to set future goals and directions for implementing the Accord and Codes. “Building the Relationship Between the Government of Canada and the Voluntary Sector” brought together senior representatives from 25 national organizations and a range of federal government departments and agencies for two one-day information and training sessions (one day in English, the other in French). Participants worked together to identify the qualities of an ideal relationship, as well as challenges and solutions related to building and maintaining a strong relationship that works and implementing good practices.

Monitoring progress in federal departments

The Accord commits both sectors to monitor and report on their progress as they move toward an enhanced relationship. Building on lessons learned from last year’s reporting process, the government streamlined its 2004 questionnaire to solicit departmental input on:

  • the nature of their relationship with the voluntary sector
  • actions taken or planned to implement the Accord and Codes
  • good practices that have been implemented relating to funding or policy dialogue
  • progress on priorities identified in the department or agency’s last progress report

A copy of the 2004 questionnaire was sent to deputy heads of departments and agencies across the Government of Canada. Some of the highlights of the findings are included in this report; for a more detailed review, see “Background Paper: Government of Canada Implementation” at www.vsi-isbc.ca.

Hearing from the voluntary sector

For its part, the Voluntary Sector Forum coordinated the distribution and analysis of an on-line survey to voluntary sector organizations across the country. The survey was made available through the Voluntary Sector Forum Web site www.vsffsbc. ca and the Voluntary Sector Initiative Web site www.vsi-isbc.ca. Links and reminders also appeared on the Web sites of a number of affiliated organizations, such as VolunteersOnLine and Charity Village. Some of the major findings from the voluntary sector survey are presented in this report; however, for more details, see “Background Paper: Voluntary Sector Implementation” on the Forum’s Web site at www.vsf-fsbc.ca.

IDENTIFY, USE AND PROMOTE GOOD PRACTICES

One of the first steps to implementing the Accord and Codes of Good Practice on Funding and Policy Dialogue is to promote awareness about how they can be used “on the ground” in the day-to-day work of government departments and voluntary sector organizations.

Many organizations in both sectors already spend considerable time and effort putting these good practices to work, collaborating on key issues, sharing information and tools, and finding innovative and effective ways of working together. Much of the work over the past year has focused on finding ways to share and build on these experiences.

Training and information sessions

A major focus both for the government and the voluntary sector has been on providing training to departments and voluntary sector organizations across the country on how to implement the Accord and Codes. Over the past year, the two sectors collaborated to deliver the following two-day sessions:

  • an English-language “trainthe- trainer” session and an information session for 86 voluntary sector representatives in Calgary (November 27 and 28, 2003)
  • a French-language “trainthe- trainer” workshop in Edmonton (December 3 and 4, 2003)
  • English- and French-language workshops for 38 representatives of eight government departments and trainers from 16 centres in Ontario (March 24 and 25, 2004)

Building on lessons learned from joint “train-the-trainer” workshops held in Fredericton in the fall of 2003, organizers redesigned the training methodology to provide local trainers, federal government Champions, Forum members and others with flexible modules that can be tailored to meet specific needs. The sessions also made use of tools developed jointly by the two sectors, including a 10-minute video that provides background on the Accord and case study examples, and a plain-language workbook on how to put the Codes of Good Practice on Funding and Policy Dialogue to work in government and voluntary sector organizations.

As part of the overall training strategy, the voluntary sector established an extranet site for the exclusive use of trainers. Part of the VSF Web site, it encourages trainers to share information, experiences and questions related to the Accord and Codes training.

Information out

Speaking engagements are one of the ways the Forum gets information out about the Accord and Codes of Good Practice on Funding and Policy Dialogue. During the past year, Forum members and staff took part in more than 50 workshops and conferences, reaching almost 1,000 people at the national, provincial/territorial, local and international levels.

The Forum also promotes awareness by distributing copies of the Accord and Codes and other information materials to sector organizations. From October 2003 to September 2004, the Forum distributed copies of the following:

  • Code of Good Practice on Policy Dialogue: 2,637
  • Code of Good Practice on Funding: 1,883
  • Kits (Accord and Codes): 1,428
  • Accord: 2,390 " Video: 82
  • CD-ROM: 182

Good practices at work

The Accord and Codes Knowledgebase of Effective Practices is a growing online collection of case studies that demonstrates how some Canadian voluntary sector organizations have been successful in making the Accord and Codes of Good Practice part of the way they do business with the Government of Canada. A source of practical and creative examples, the Knowledgebase illustrates how voluntary sector organizations are using the Accord and Codes, as well as the results different strategies have achieved (see www.vsf-fsbc.ca).

Focus on funding

Established in early 2004, the Interdepartmental Funding Code Working Group shared good funding practices and encourages their use in departments across the federal government. Many of these good practices are based on input from last year’s government-wide progress reports, which highlighted a range of innovative initiatives. For example, departments reported using the Code to:

  • analyze current and potential funding relationships with the voluntary sector
  • guide the renewal of terms and conditions for funding programs
  • carry out gap analysis on departmental processes and procedures, including those on risk assessment, transfer payment policies and departmental action plans on grants and contributions

HOLD REGULAR MEETINGS BETWEEN THE SECTORS

Both the federal government and the voluntary sector recognize the importance of dialogue between the two sectors at the highest levels. During this reporting period, the Honourable Liza Frulla, then Minister of Social Development Canada – the department responsible for the relationship between the Government of Canada and the voluntary sector – held a meeting with key voluntary sector representatives. Members of the voluntary sector took the opportunity to reinforce the importance of moving forward on the commitments made in the Accord and Codes of Good Practice on Funding and Policy Dialogue.

Due to Cabinet personnel changes during the current reporting period, a meeting between the Ministerial Consultative Committee and voluntary sector leaders did not take place. However, both sectors have agreed to make a meeting between the two groups a priority for the upcoming year.

Similarly, while a meeting between voluntary sector representatives and departmental champions did not take place in the current reporting period, the two sectors have committed to meeting in the fall of 2004.

COLLABORATE TO ADVANCE VOLUNTARY SECTOR PRIORITIES OF PAN-CANADIAN SIGNIFICANCE

Through the Voluntary Sector Forum, the voluntary sector identified a number of clear priorities for action. Issues of national importance, these priorities were selected based on survey feedback from voluntary sector organizations, as well as on the experiences of Forum members, staff and others. Looking back over the past year, the federal government and the voluntary sector made significant advances in several of these areas.

ABOUT CANADA’S CHARITIES

  • About 80,000 charities are registered under the Income Tax Act.
    (Source: Canada Revenue Agency)
  • In 2003, nonprofit and voluntary organizations reported revenues of $75 billion (excluding hospitals, colleges and universities.)
    (Source: National Survey of Nonprofit and Voluntary Organizations, 2004)

On improving the regulatory environment for charities

In September 2003, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) released new guidelines that clearly identify what constitutes political activity for charities. These guidelines were revised and clarified in consultation with the voluntary sector.

On another front, the federal government’s charities regulatory reform initiative includes a comprehensive action plan to implement the regulatory changes proposed in the federal government’s 2004 budget, which allocated $12 million per year to improve the way charities are regulated. These changes respond to recommendations by the VSI’s, Joint Regulatory Table (JRT) for improving the voluntary sector’s legislative and regulatory environment.

Developed by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and Finance Canada, the charities regulatory reform initiative focuses on five key areas:

  • service improvements to help charities register and report
  • more transparent and accessible information about registered charities and CRA policies, decisions and regulatory requirements
  • a new compliance regime for charities
  • a more accessible appeals regime
  • jurisdictional collaboration among federal and provincial/ territorial governments

The CRA has already taken action in some of these areas – for example, creating a Charities Advisory Committee to advise the Minister of the Canada Revenue Agency, simplifying the tax return for charities and redesigning the charities section of the CRA Web site.

On legislative change

With a view to improving the regulatory structure that governs the voluntary sector, Industry Canada has conducted extensive consultations on reforming the Canada Corporations Act. The 2004 Federal Budget committed the Government to creating a new Not-for-Profit Corporations Act that will: reduce the regulatory burden on the notfor- profit sector; improve financial accountability; clarify the roles and responsibilities of directors and officers; and enhance and protect the rights of members.

On advocacy

Concerned that legal and regulatory gaps and ambiguities limit the role that charities can play in public policy debate and development, the Voluntary Sector Forum and others in the sector are continuing work to ensure that charities are afforded the flexibility and tools that they need to contribute effectively to public policy.

On funding

One of the voluntary sector’s priorities is to improve the quality of voluntary sector financing, including changes to the funding regime and the funding environment in which voluntary sector organizations operate. Over the past year, work continued on improving sources and mechanisms of financing, with the goal of ensuring long-term sustainability for voluntary sector organizations.

Social Development Canada (SDC) is taking the lead on establishing a task force that will examine current mechanisms and make recommendations on approaches to facilitate investments in communities by the federal government. For its part, the Voluntary Sector Forum is working at the provincial level with others in the voluntary sector to address financing concerns.

On liability insurance

Concerned about the cost and accessibility of liability insurance for voluntary sector organizations, the Forum recently undertook a series of regional consultations and an on-line survey to catalogue the problems most commonly faced by voluntary sector organizations. The results are set out in a report entitled, Liability Insurance and the Voluntary Sector – Framing the Issues, which is available on the Forum’s Web site at www.vsf-fsbc.ca Work is under way to develop solutions for these problems.

COLLABORATE ON OTHER COMMITMENTS

The Accord sets out a number of essential measures that are required to implement its provisions. Among the directions identified for “taking the Accord forward” is the development of processes for resolving disputes.

Identifying options for dispute resolution

The VSF and SDC are working together on a pilot project to develop a collaborative problem solving approach for issues coming out of the implementation of the Accord and Codes. Based on a background paper commissioned by the VSF in March of 2004, the project is designed to enhance the ability of the two sectors to serve Canadians and their communities through partnerships in areas where they have identified common goals. Both the federal government and the voluntary sector have identified successful collaborative partnerships as a key element of “doing business” together and a fundamental indicator of the success of the Accord and Codes of Good Practice. Selected departments and their respective sector stakeholders will test the pilot.

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Last Updated: 2019-05-26