People talk about a desire to break down the barriers they see springing up between them and their neighbours. But often, they don’t know how. For English civil society to flourish in our fast changing world, we must begin to answer that question.
Our website and helpline work well, reaching over 1.5 million people, and we have dipped our toe in with a couple of regional admin offices. But we know that if we really want to enhance our face-to-face support and work more closely with older people we need to be embedded in their communities.
We are now twelve months into our inquiry into the future of civil society in England, engaging over 1,500 people in deep discussion — what have we heard?
Civil society, like the society it serves, is ever changing. If we are to harness the transformative energy of young people and communities, structures and funding will need to change to keep pace. People are eager to work together for the common good, we just need the government and funders to loosen the chains and … Read more
What exactly are the characteristics which make a good organisation in the aftermath of the Oxfam and Save the Children scandal? I think we know such bodies when we come across them, and they are often grassroots initiatives with a strong sense of place and locale, and of mission and founding leadership.
Will the future be stronger for voluntary sector providers of adult social care if disabled people are truly at the heart of our decision-making? Why do professionals talk on behalf of their beneficiaries when people themselves and their families are capable of and willing to speak up?
A few years ago, YHLCOSA, a charity working to prevent sexual harm, made radical changes to the way it operates. It was a change which saw the charity develop much stronger relationships with its local business community, in order to support its work across Yorkshire, the Humber and Lincolnshire.
Sexual abuse, exploitation and assault, and resulting cover-ups at Oxfam, Save the Children and others have dominated headlines. What does it mean for the future? Have your say.
Bolivia has a deep history of resistance. After over 500 years of colonisation, it continues to be home to the largest and most diverse indigenous population in the continent, with 36 different indigenous peoples officially recorded. At the turn of the millennium movements successfully took on both a multinational corporation and a President – paving … Read more
So many organisations are seeking to make a difference to people’s lives today. But how can we involve the communities we work with in shaping the policies and systems that will change their tomorrows too?
The challenges presented by climate change may feel like a question for the future in the UK but they are far from a distant threat. The consequences of the changing climate are repeatedly being felt close to home, particularly in the form of severe floods, which have hit hard in recent years from North to … Read more
Large and medium-sized organisations often dominate what we hear about the charity sector. But the world looks very different for small and micro-organisations – so different, in fact, that frequently it doesn’t even make sense to talk about them in the same breath.
There are no shortages of challenges facing civil society, but one that we don’t talk enough about is the relationship between the formal and informal parts of civil society. If civil society is to have to have any chance of tackling the biggest challenges facing the world, we have to work out to how to … Read more
The Blagrave Trust funds around 50 youth organisations in the South East of England. We recently brought them and young people together at the Blagrave Trust’s annual partners event. We discussed the future for young people in order to contribute to the Civil Society Futures Inquiry. Quotes below are from people attending the event. What … Read more
No leader, no ideology can come to power — and stay in power — alone. Who are the key thinkers, organisers and behind-the-scenes players shaping Corbynism, what does its future hold, and what does this mean for civil society? Thinking too hard about British politics at the moment is liable to induce a serious case … Read more
Gay, lesbian, old, young, black, white, disabled… we often organise around distinct identities. But are these really helping us – or will they hold us back unless we adapt? Of course, they’re not bad very often. People organise, campaign, volunteer and donate to reduce the inequality endured by particular identity groups all the time. Much … Read more
A growing appetite for crowd sourcing solutions to societal challenges online – reflected in the success of news sites such as Positive News, The New Internationalist and Mental Health Today – offers hope for the futures of both civil society and journalism. I co-edit Mental Health Today and we regularly see our “crowd” of 70,000 … Read more
On 30 October people from across civil society gathered to discuss an important question: how can we continue to address specific inequalities in our society without increasing divisions between communities and groups? The meeting is one of dozens of independently organised Conversations being hosted around the country, the insights of which are playing an important … Read more
The last 10 years have seen a revolution in our ability to communicate with those outside our immediate circle. The advent of social media and new technology gives us the ability to broadcast our views and experiences in ways undreamed of a generation ago. This makes mass communication seem not just possible, but mandatory. At … Read more
It wasn’t long after he joined Uber in 2013 that it became clear to Yaseen Aslam – a ten-year veteran in the minicab trade – just how vulnerable he was if he didn’t team up with other drivers. “For me it was about how Uber could turn me off at the touch of a button … Read more
Maff: At the Association of Camerados we are thinking about the things that help people live a richer life, not necessarily things like a job or a home or a hostel. We believe it is friends and purpose that make a difference in this life. How do you create friends and purpose? Here is the … Read more
For people of my generation, working for a charity was a noble and realistic goal. With employment in the voluntary sector rising by a third over the last decade (to nearly 3 per cent of all UK workers), charities have offered a variety of fulfilling – and sometimes well-paid – roles. Yet, the 17th century … Read more
Just like the railway, Facebook is a private monopoly running a public service. We, the public, don’t have real competition and consumer choice, but we don’t have a democratic say as citizens either. The internet has been a virtual wild west, fast-moving and little regulated, with tech companies competing for territory. But now there are clear natural monopolies … Read more
The only issue was that the tears made my glasses steam up. But otherwise, Munduruku: The Fight to Defend the Heart of the Amazon is like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. The multisensory virtual reality installation from Greenpeace, AlchemyVR and The Feelies takes you into the Amazon, where you are invited on a tour of … Read more
From transparency to board diversity, the new Charity Governance Code is designed to rebuild trust. Civil Society Futures asked me to blog about the new Charity Governance Code. Although, as chair of the Code’s Steering Group, I’ve written lots of articles about it, this request immediately put me into a spin as I wondered what … Read more
It’s not often that you see the entire sector come together with a united voice. Yet on Tuesday, that is exactly what happened. What’s everyone reacting to? It’s the Lobbying Act. When the Act was brought into force in 2014, it was said that the aim was to tackle unfair lobbying by big corporations. But … Read more
Why civil society? In today’s complex and fast-changing societies, the state can neither be all-knowing nor all-powerful. There is thus a strong case for non-governmental organisations to provide grounded information and activist voices, and to act as critical partners in policy implementation. This is the idea of civil society as the ‘public sphere’, in which … Read more
Part of my learning from more than twenty years working in and around charities, churches and other change agents is that governance matters. By governance here I mean both the formal structure of a group, and how decisions – particularly major decisions – get made. Governance particularly matters when a group is under internal or … Read more
Thinking about civil society and particularly the leadership and management skills required in our fast changing future, I’m really struck by the different skills, and styles required, and wondering whether or not they are compatible. There is a big and compelling literature about management in voluntary organisations. There’s a recognition that managing beyond the bottom-line … Read more
African feminist movements are diverse. But we can, and must, learn from decades of transformational organising on the continent. As African feminists, we face multiple systems of oppression including the effects of colonisation, neocolonisation, white supremacy, militarism, the globalisation of capitalism and neoliberalism. Yet our movements are more vibrant and radically political than ever before. … Read more
On the first Saturday of August, nearly a month after the near-inevitable controversy of Belfast’s Eleventh Night bonfires and Twelfth parades, over 5000 people marched in the city’s annual Pride Parade, a protest which is a response to Northern Ireland’s present and future, rather than its sectarian past. Why, in NI, where the largest party … Read more
Part of the purpose of this inquiry is to provide a space for conversation about difficult and controversial subjects which either ignite strong feelings, or get ignored through fear and embarrassment. This article is intended to stimulate an open and respectful conversation about some of these issues, and does not necessarily represent the views of … Read more
In the late 19th century, as the industrial revolution came to maturity, an extraordinary system emerged to address the health needs of industrial workers. In Tredegar, south Wales, a hospital sick pay and insurance system was so effective that Nye Bevan took it as the model for the NHS. This is far from unique. It … Read more
In 2011, the comedian and broadcaster Josie Long was worried that austerity would exclude working class young people from the arts. And so, with a friend, she founded the group Arts Emergency. After loads of boring meetings, it’s now a thriving charity with a cornucopia of projects, helping creative young people across the country. Civil … Read more
Not made for these times In 1966, while Brian Wilson was radically innovating, and creating new works of musical genius, other members of the Beach Boys remained sceptical. Fellow band member Mike Love’s famously bad advice to him at the time (at least apocryphally) was “Don’t fuck with the formula”. Don’t move away from what … Read more
Where does your power come from and how does it relate to power in the systems and structures around you? What power do we have as civil society and how can we deploy it for positive and transformative change? Who? Louise, Corina and Khadra from the Civil Society Futures team ran a session as part … Read more
‘Our people are our greatest asset,’ proclaims an empty management slogan repeated ad nauseam by executives across all sectors, as they downsize, modernise, streamline and restructure their way towards greater ‘efficiencies’ in which people become as replaceable machine parts. Nowhere is the contradiction more glaring than amongst civil society organisations. Those whose mission statements explicitly … Read more
It’s so hard to find a parking space in Dulwich Village. At one of Southwark’s community councils not so long ago, there was some vocal (and visceral) opposition to a modest council proposal to slightly improve cycling provision and safety in a tiny part of the borough. The residents’ campaign against the proposed change led … Read more
British housing is a dangerous mess. But people are organising to protect themselves – like they always have. In 1915 in Govan, just south of the river Clyde in Glasgow, bands of women torpedoed flour bombs at creeping eviction enforcers from the towering windows of their tenements. Exasperated by increasingly predacious landlords and the rising … Read more
Chatting to people in the street isn’t scientific. But it does give you a sense of something. It does allow you to get a bit of a feel for how particular kinds of people in specific sorts of places talk about things. It permits a glimpse of the light from some of the fractures in … Read more
No white, cisgender, middle class man just “lands” in a senior position in an organisation.
Should we be optimistic or pessimistic about the future role of civil society? I was recently invited to talk to the group responsible for the Inquiry into the Future of Civil Society on behalf of UnLtd and the social entrepreneurs with whom I work. Following some scene setting about what the group are looking to … Read more
Can the museum be reimagined as a place that actually works for its constituents, rather than for the art market? Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (mima) director Alistair Hudson seeks to create a ‘useful museum’ that is the true manifestation of its community. What brought you to the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (mima)? I’ve … Read more
We talk to the founders of Home for Waifs and Strays, a Birmingham initiative that seeks to foster a community and home for live-artists in the city. How did Home for Waifs and Strays begin? Kate Spence: In a nutshell, Aleks rang me one night. Aleks Wojtulewicz: At 2 in the morning – like all the best … Read more