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Category: Uncategorised

Playback: A business perspective on Civil Society

What do business leaders think about the future of civil society?

The basics:

Who?  Pioneer business partners from the Forum for the Future network, including representatives form Unilever, Boots, Kingfisher, Marks & Spencers, Innovate UK, Crown Estate

Where?  Elmley Nature Reserve, Kent 

When?  18th Jul 2017

Why?  Part of an annual ‘away day’ with this group who meet regularly and learn together about how to pursue their sustainability ambitions.

What?  Hosting a business focused Civil Society Futures Conversation

Insights:

What was most surprising / memorable for you about this session/conversation/event?

It was interesting just how difficult people found it to think about what civil society meant for them. One person remarked: “I’ve never thought of these things as civil society – it’s just ‘living’”

Is using the term civil society is a barrier to further participation and understanding of the area?

What were the dilemmas of tensions you noticed in this session/conversation/event?

There is no one approach for businesses to engage with civil society. Where organisations do have a working relationship, it’s important to question and evaluate why you have these relationships you have on a regular basis – it’s easy to forget why you have them, what your shared purpose is and if it still makes sense to relate in the same way. They spoke about how it is also hard to extract yourself from these relationships and to have honest/difficult conversations about what to do and where to go next.

Some of the businesses present admitted that they made a worse decision (from a sustainability point of view) because of vocal groups / reputational risk of taking that choice. It seems that single issue campaigning is very polarising and hard campaigning creates fear and also prevents organisations from making strong statements for fear of being ambushed.

Share one other thing that became evident for you in this session/conversation/event?

Inevitably one of the major differences between business and civil society is the ‘market’ dynamics at play. Being part of markets forces businesses to look at things from a certain way. But there is a need for organisations/perspectives that work out of the force of market dynamics – which often is where civil society comes it. Although of course many civil society organisations are subject to these same market dynamics.

So what?

What does this tell you about civil society in the future?

There’s an aspiration for business and civil society to form a different sort of relationship from the one we have now. Here’s some of the vision statements that emerged from the session:

In 2030 it will be normal for business and civil society to stand up for what they believe in

in 2030 business and civil society will be working together in a challenging yet cooperative way

in 2030 we will find valuable roles and tensions between business and civil society to address societal needs

In 2030 civil society organisation to identify spaces where business don’t cover – collaboratively work on them to fill the gap

In 2030 see civil society led innovation funded by business (rather than business led innovation funded by civil society)

In 2030 business to share the value of civil society in participating and creating better lives for everyone

In 2030 business and civil society working together playing to strengths to contribute to common opportunities

In 2030 businesses see themselves as civil society

In 2030 all businesses will be benefit corporations that have a social and economic purpose solving a societal need

In 2030 civil society and business would be operating in a symbiotic relationship and found a harmony

In 2030 business will have a symbiotic relationship with civil society to create shared value

 

1st August 2017

Playback: Marks Gate

Civil Society Futures Marks Gate workshop

The basics:

Who? Active citizens of Marks Gate, Barking and Dagenham

What? Discussing the future of Marks Gate, and the forces shaping it

Where? St Marks Church, Barking.

When? 6:30pm, 27th June, 2017

Why?  This was part of Goldsmith’s research

Insights: (what stood out for you?)

It was clear that people in the workshop had a range of shared concerns, particularly a lack of opportunities for young people. There was also concern for community safety, as some people saw knife crime as a barrier to engaging young people in civil society. While there was evidence of a strong civil society ecosystem, it was apparent that some key organisations and places had disappeared in recent years due to growing resource pressures.

So what?

What does this tell you about civil society in the future?

A key challenge identified was a lack of funding for civil society organisations, which means that a lot of activity in the area relies on volunteers who can easily get burnt out or overworked. As a result, some important civil society institutions have disappeared from the area in recent years. Looking ahead, civil society faces the challenge of trying to grow, adapt and expand in a difficult economic climate with limited public funds available.

What are the drivers (or barriers) of change in civil society that came out for you?

Drivers: There is a strong community spirit and a shared desire to create more opportunities for young people.

Barriers: High levels of deprivation and debt, violent crime, high housing costs, government spending cuts and rapid changes in the local housing market.

What are the new emerging models/forms of civil society?

North Meets South Big Local (NMSBL) is a partnership which works to strengthen and grow the local community. Each year the group receives £1m from the Local Trust to spend on what the local area needs. To prioritise spending, NMSBL holds an annual ‘Dragon’s Den’ event where members of the community submit ideas and vote on the projects they’d like to see start up in the area. The picture below shows what the community priorites were in last year’s Dragon’s Den.

 

What is the question you are now left with?

How can civil society grow and expand in places like Marks Gate which face a challenging socio-economic environment?

 

29th June 2017

Peckham: Playback

Civil Society Futures Peckham workshop

The basics:

Who? Active citizens of Peckham

What? Discussing the future of Peckham, and the forces shaping it

Where? All Saints Church, Peckham

When? 6:30pm, 23rd May, 2017

Why?  This was part of Goldsmith’s research

Insights: (what stood out for you?)

It was clear that people in the workshop had a range of shared concerns, and were particularly keen to preserve Peckham’s diversity in the light of rising housing costs. They saw civil society/community activism as how they organised citizens to ensure their interests were acted on.

So what? 

What does this tell you about civil society in the future?

Peckham was one of our ‘hot spots’, with huge amounts of community activity. Everyone there seemed to be involved in a huge range of things, and to have remarkably shared concerns despite their diversity of backgrounds.

What are the drivers (or barriers) of change in civil society that came out for you?

Driver: People were motivated to stand together in a changing world

Barrier: Rapid changes in the local economy/housing market.

What is working really well in civil society today?

People organise together, and always will.

What do you see declining?

With the London housing market on the rampage, communities are being torn apart as young people are forced out of the areas they grew up in. This makes community building harder.

What are the new emerging models/forms of civil society?

As ever, online organisation is most powerful among people who already know each other

What is the question you are now left with?
Will Peckham retain its amazing sense of community, or will it become another investment vehicle for global capital?

31st May 2017