ARTICLES Taking Civil Society Futures into the future: new plans and an open call for collaboration

Julia Unwin, Picture by Adam Fradgley
Julia Unwin, Picture by Adam Fradgley

Taking Civil Society Futures into the future: new plans and an open call for collaboration

It’s just over a couple of months since we launched the findings from the Civil Society Futures Inquiry.  So many of you have been in touch, supportive and wanting to do more – so how do we take this forward in 2019 and beyond?  Here’s what we’re thinking: I would love you to be part of it.

The big findings

We said then that civil society is everywhere, but that the world in which it operates is changing fast. It has always grown and developed in times of change – and we called for a renewed, revitalised civil society, able to address the biggest challenges of this time: our dented democracy, our torn social fabric and other major challenges like climate change.

We were – and are optimistic about the future because we know that civil society has developed and transformed over time, but we were clear that we all need to change.

We proposed a new PACT: behaviours, attitudes and practices that would fit us for the changing world. We described a strong civil society – but a challenging, divided society which we have an obligation to address.

What now?

But what does this mean in practice? How do we go from analysis of the opportunity, to the sort of change across civil society that will really make the difference?  How do we change across organisations as different as choirs and allotment societies, service providing charities, campaign groups and housing associations – from individual communities to the widespread system change so many are demanding?

Many of the answers are within civil society and it has been so encouraging and affirming to see the ways in which such different groups, networks and organisations have been responding to the challenges the inquiry raised.  We shared many of these stories over the past two years and we want to share more.

But for deep-rooted, sustained change across England we need a more systemic approach. We’ve been fortunate to get a grant from the Community Fund (formerly the Big lottery Fund) to allow us to look deeper at three major areas – and propose major, concrete changes and bodies of work for now and the years ahead that we hope will receive support from civil society:

  1. What sort of leadership – paid and unpaid – does civil society need at all levels to rise to the challenge of our fast-changing society?
  2. What needs to change in our ecosystem (that complex environment which shapes and informs so much of what we do)? What do the government, regulators, funders and others need to do and stop doing?
  3. And what do we need to do to make the PACT more relevant, accessible and used by organisations, groups and movements of different kinds?  We want it to be practical and in widespread use across civil society.

In each workstream we’ll be asking similar questions: How can change really happen? What needs to be done next? Who can take this on?

With you?

We can’t do this alone. We need to work with partners – with those who are able to contribute to making the change, as well as those who want to make sure that change happens.  

If you are interested and thinking you might be able to help or get involved in some way on one of those areas above, we would love to hear from you.  Please register your interest here and we will follow up with you.

The Civil Society Futures inquiry was about bringing together many people – we want to continue that, I hope you will be part of it somehow.