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.
“There’s a huge amount of active, pissed off, determined people who are trying to deliver all sorts of change within Cornwall. So I think that’s where the hope is”
If you’ve seen the TV game show Pointless, you’ll know that – like in civil society – common assumptions are often a veneer. The most illuminating way to understand a community is to seek out the Pointless answers…
Epsom is a powerful analogy for much of the country: economic forces are sucking it towards the city of London, but it’s striving to develop its own identity. How that struggle plays out – between England as a hinterland for a once imperial capital, and England as a country in its own right – could … Read more
As the British economy has moved away from manufacturing and toward financial services, growing numbers in the city are unemployed, underemployed or in precarious employment, and the use of food banks is on the rise. Inequality has increased, with life expectancy as much as 14 years lower for residents in areas of Sunderland like Hendon, … Read more
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?
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.
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
One of the constant themes we’ve heard during the first year of the inquiry is the need to create places and spaces for people to come together, create and meet others. What’s going on across Europe and what can we learn?
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.
Behind the European system of border control known as “push-back” lies a racist and violent ideology that only civil society, working deliberately across borders to understand and undermine the status quo, can overcome. In November 2015, a video of a Greek coast guard was released. The video shows a rubber boat carrying irregular migrants floating … Read more
…Those words from Julia Unwin powerfully capture the spirit of the Change Convention, hosted by Corra Foundation on 9 October in Edinburgh. The day brought together around 300 people, mainly from the voluntary sector, and offered a platform for conversations about how we can create positive change in times of uncertainty. Illustrator Amber Anderson spent … Read more
Who remembers the Big Society? Launched to great fanfare at the start of 2010, the Big Society was David Cameron’s big idea to create more social action, empower communities and open up public services. Seven years on, what is the legacy of the Big Society agenda, and what impact has it had in communities? In Sunderland, … Read more
“When I first started drinking here, the bottom half of town was out of bounds. That’s where the squaddie bars were.” My new friend pointed out the regimental cap-badges lined up behind the spirit bottles in the nearly empty pub. These days, those knocking back shots are not soldiers, but students. And Winchester’s undergraduates, it … Read more
The ancients defined ‘politics’ as the art of living in cities. How could large numbers of people, not related to each other, co-exist peacefully? The answer was to develop institutions, resembling the families or kinship groups of the countryside, combining economic with social functions: churches and guilds, businesses and trades unions, charities and community groups. … 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
To say that society is shaped by the relations underpinning the way that economic activity is organized is not a new idea. It is most famously associated with Karl Marx, but you don’t have to be a Marxist to recognise that culture, customs and civic life are all to some degree influenced by economic forces. … Read more
HOPE not hate’s Fear and HOPE report has charted attitudes towards race, faith, immigration and belonging in England since 2011. The most detailed survey of its kind asks over 4,000 people 140 questions pertinent to current events. Our fourth report looks at economic pessimism, the effects of the Brexit vote, the recent attacks on Manchester … 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
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
As we reel from shock to shock – bombings in Manchester, attacks in London, the horrific fire in Kensington – one thing has become clear. Civil society in its widest sense is central to how we respond. Immediately after the blue light services heroically dealing with horror come the volunteers – the churches, the community … 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
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
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