3 ‘Speaking truth to power’

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.

(Attributed to Margaret Mead, anthropologist)

These words summarise a belief held by many within small (and not so small) voluntary organisations that they can make a difference in society. It is perhaps inevitable that this aspect of the purpose of the voluntary sector at times results in confrontation with other interests and groups in society. Voluntary organisations tell stories, surface issues, highlight alternatives and run campaigns that challenge established practices and priorities. These practices have something to teach us about how influence happens.

The history of voluntary organisations is littered with examples of ‘speaking truth to power’, and in the twenty-first century this advocacy role continues to be a part of many organisations’ identity. In this section, we reflect on two examples – the Hillsborough Family Support Group and the Living Wage campaign.

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Figure 1

2 Influencing others

3.1 Changing the story