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Posted by Sarah Brown on 10 Oct '19

A “novel” way to highlight charity issues

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The Long Call, the latest novel by Ann  Cleeves, starting hopefully a new crime series starring Matthew Venn, is the first crime story I have read with charities at its heart.

You won’t find the Woodyard or St Cuthberts listed at the Charity Commission but millions of readers of crime fiction will know their names over the coming months and years as these charities feature in this novel..

I am an avid reader of crime fiction so I know I wouldn’t want the plot spoiled, but I just had to write about this brilliant novel which I couldn’t put down. To begin with I didn’t notice the charity themes as I was caught up in the story of murder and mayhem.  Then as I read, I realised how many important issues that charities face it addressed. I would recommend it to anyone working, volunteering or acting as a trustee for a charity or voluntary body as it will make you think as well as being a real page turner.

Set in idyllic North Devon it has become even more topical with the research published this week about economic issues in seaside towns. It picks up on drugs, mental health and homelessness in Barnstaple as well as the financial pressures on councils and the shutting of provision for adults with learning disabilities. It covers how challenging it is to get grants for new charity developments and the need for match funding  as well as the on-going pressure to make community spaces commercially sustainable.

Most eloquently and powerfully, it also covers the problems which occur when a charity faces conflicts in its values and the tragic consequences which could happen.

We spend a lot of time focusing on values in the work we do and particularly emphasise the importance of ranking them so that everyone connected to an organisation knows what is the priority when there is a conflict between two or more values.  This novel takes it to an extreme but I have experienced charities excusing acts because “the end justifies the means”

I am sure this novel will be televised like her other series about Shetland and Vera. If so, the issues raised about charities will be broadcast to a wider audience and any charity will need to be ready to answer them.

I would be fascinated to hear other views on this novel. If you want to learn more about why values are so critical and ranking them watch our free video.

If you want to identify and rank your values use our free digital tool.

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