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Governance as the true site of Third Sector Innovation

Increasingly, therefore, governance will, of necessity, become more strategic. What exactly does this mean? Here are just some of the questions that a strategic governance function might choose to ask. How can Third Sector organisations hold together as financially viable and prosperous concerns in such economically challenging times? How can they pursue those things that matter to them, not just those things set out in defining missions, but other priorities too? How can they explore and experiment with new ways of working? How can they recognise, interact with and influence other organisations and other currents? How can they orient to new forms of spatial and economic governance in order to make sense of the major changes taking place around them?

The answers to most, if not all, of these questions will involve a recognition of our uncertainty and lack of clear direction. In this sense it is important to avoid strategy as the pretence of knowledge that we do not have.

The following paper will examine briefly the circumstances of the UK substance abuse treatment field and more specifically the role of Third Sector organisations within it. Not surprisingly, it will argue for a need to consolidate and to grow within the current competitive treatment market place. At the same time, however, it will point to a deeper need to experiment and innovate outside the confines of the current contract culture and models of procurement. This will require that Third Sector organisations secure the means adequate to such a task. Above all, the paper points to the ever greater importance of governance in the Third Sector and argues that in these times of great uncertainty governance is the real site of innovation.