What is Representation?
Representation is defined as the act of standing in for people or groups and speaking with authority on their behalf; it is the state or condition of serving as an official delegate, agent or spokesperson. Not everybody who has a stake in decisions can be present at meetings about these decisions. A representative can, therefore, be chosen to share the views of those who cannot be present. When we talk about ‘representing the voluntary sector’ this implies a whole set of processes, which include:
- Gathering the views of the sector
- Taking the sector’s diverse views to strategic or decision making forums
- Feeding any comments or results back to the sector
- Returning any reactions from the sector back to the forums.
- The process ideally being on-going, transparent and democratic.
It is particularly important to support smaller community groups to be heard in these forums. They are less likely to have the capacity to attend meetings, but they often represent some of the most vulnerable, ‘hard to reach’ communities. It is important that they are enabled to share their experiences and that of their service users.
Children, young people and families should be involved in the decisions about services that affect them; often it is a statutory requirement and, more importantly perhaps, it just makes sense. Traditionally, the VCS has been a champion of the children, young people and families who use their services. It also has a strong history of service user involvement that can provide routes to ensure real participation in the development of local services.