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Records of unique voluntary sector consultants’ network saved

The archives of the Management Development Network (MDN), 1991 – 2016, tell the story of a remarkable enabling organisation of its time, and which left very well organised evidence of its people and activities. But like too many archive collections, the boxes containing the material got stored and forgotten about. That is until they were recently re-discovered in the house of the late Colin Rochester, which was due to be sold at the end of July 2023.

The MDN (since re-branded as Consultants for Good) was formed in 1991 and remains unique in its values, inception and functioning. It was an unincorporated network for sole traders specialising in providing management and governance training and consultancy to voluntary and community organisations. At the time there was no similar network in Great Britain or indeed known in northern Europe. The MDN was committed to:

(i)        reducing the isolation of the sole trader;

(ii)       helping to ensure continuing professional development;

(iii)      helping members manage competing for work.

Members had to have worked two years freelancing as specialist in assisting voluntary and community organisations; to be committed to the voluntary and community sector; and to reflect values of co-operation and collectivity.

The MDN’s Co-Convenors were volunteers working from home – they published a directory, shared work opportunities and ran events that combined a rich range of content and good food! There were bases in London and Edinburgh (and for a while in Bristol) and over the years between 60 and 90 members were involved.

Hearing about the situation with the network’s records, Consultants for Good folk were stunned, realising what the loss of the archives meant, for after all such records ‘are our heritage’. We asked for help from the Archiving the Mixed Economy of Welfare team, and were connected to the Business Archives Council and TNA’s Sector Development Team. Through their good services the MDN archives are to have a permanent home at the Modern Records Centre at the University of Warwick. What helped enormously in facilitating this donation was that the records were already well organised with a simple box list of the contents clearly described and efficiently laid out.

Once accessioned and made available at the Modern Records Centre, the material will offer valuable insight for the voluntary and community sector’s contemporary history. It will enable scholars from a range of disciplines to look at the sector through a new lens and promoting understanding of the complexity of the sector from a range of unique perspectives.

By Shirley Otto, Consultants for Good

Image from the Consultants for Good website
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About Georgina Brewis

Professor of Social History at UCL
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