The WISERD Stand was busy at the Wales Council for Voluntary Action Annual Conference 2015. Held in Llandudno, it is the leading third sector conference in Wales. This year’s event was valuable in developing existing strong links between third sector organisations and colleagues working on the Institute’s ESRC- funded Civil Society Programme. Welsh Government minister Leslie Griffiths AM strongly welcomed WISERD’s Civil Society’s research when she discussed the programme with co-director Professor Paul Chaney.
Amongst the presentations at the conference Paul Chaney reported on findings from Work Package 2.2 Territoriality and Third Sector Engagement in Policy-Making and Welfare Provision.
This traced progress from the outset of devolution in Wales when engagement with the third sector was described by the First Minister as one of ‘three golden threads of partnership at the heart of the National Assembly’s activities’. Allied to this, the pioneering Voluntary Sector Scheme in the Welsh devolution statute asserted ‘the Assembly recognises the role [… voluntary organizations] play in formulating and delivering public policy’. A decade-and-a-half later, in his paper Prof Chaney drew on an extensive set of qualitative accounts from third sector policy actors to outline the issues, progress and challenges associated with third sector organisations’ policy engagement with devolved government in Wales. This showed how devolution has had a positive impact and transformed the political opportunities for third sector organisations to shape policy and law in Wales. It also shows that key challenges remain, not least in broadening the number of voluntary sector organisations that take part in policy-making through engagement with the Welsh Government – and the National Assembly for Wales.