How we organise: what have we heard across England?
Edge Fund is a grant-making body with a difference. They support efforts to achieve social, economic and environmental justice and to end imbalances in wealth and power — and they give those they aim to support a say in where the money goes, including disabled people, the working class, women, people of colour, LTBTQI and Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities.
There are huge variations in trust and mistrust within civil society. The media has placed a spotlight on issues from Chief Executive pay to fundraising practices to sexual exploitation. And the biggest worry is the lack of trust between organisations and groups within civil society. Relationships within civil society have corroded as everyone competes for funding. Big changes are needed to allow smaller groups and more informal networks to flourish — but the established institutions need to change fastest and most profoundly, learning from challengers and the best of what’s new.
People are losing trust in large institutions, including charities, which are too often rigid,
unaccountable and distant from the people they are meant to serve.
“Trust and confidence in charities fell from 6.7 out of 10 in 2014 to 5.7 in 2016.” Think NPC, Charities are underestimating the importance of trust. That’s a problem. 2017
“I feel hugely let down by the minority of charity workers who abuse their power.” Fran Stanfield, quoted in Oxfam, Save the Children… what does it mean for the future?
“Institutions are locked into this concrete mudge of just ticking a box… with the social skills of a traffic bollard.” Penzance community workshop
“Monetising and transactional relationships… values are becoming economic value.” Southampton Conversation
Civil society organisations have too often lost their independence and willingness to stand up to government and business as boundaries blur between them.
“Professionalised, brand-driven and beholden to government for their multi-million contracts and big business for their ‘partnerships’, charities are seen to have become part of the very system they were set up to challenge.” Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah, Is it the beginning of the end for the charity sector?
There is inequality within civil society. Larger organisations dominate, while barriers including funding are holding back smaller and informal groups and projects — leaving a hollowed out middle between the two.
“Fewer than 1 in 2 charities are confident they will still be operating in 2021.”
“Micro-organisations, with an average annual income under £10,000, make up around half of all civil society organisations, and contain significant place- or sector-specific expertise. Yet they are under-researched, overlooked.” Community Foundation Contribution
Many are hungry to have a say in reimagining how organisations and networks work — new models of membership, participation, governance and accountability, putting people and communities in power.
“I’d love to be in a place where we have joint decision making, where we co-produce things, co-deliver things.” Oldham community workshop
“Without the internet and social media, there would not have been a #MeToo movement.” Winnie M Li, quoted in Inspiration and assault: is the future of social media in our control?
“The rise of social media has contributed to an increasingly dynamic process of forming and disbanding communities of interest, in contrast with a more static organisational model dominated by institutions.” Community Foundation Contribution