The Civil Society Strategy: a step in the right direction

August saw the release of the Government’s first Civil Society Strategy for 15 years, designed to create a fairer society for all.

The strategy makes for encouraging reading. Something that particularly resonated with me was the proposed action plan for the Charity Commission and government to open up trusteeship to broader group of people including those from different socio-economic backgrounds, which will drive diversity and greater ethnicity in the leadership of our charities. Welcome though this is, I wonder how it will work in reality when the Charity Commission constantly lacks resources. I’d love to be proved wrong but unfortunately, not a priority.

Blurring lines

Another key strand of the strategy is to drive collaboration with the private sector. This too is positive. There is already a blurring of lines between the private and charitable sector, and organisations are increasingly aware that they need to deliver social good irrespective of sector.

Russam, for example, encourages its people to volunteer their time by providing each employee with five paid days per year to volunteer. We’re far from alone in this.

With the boundaries blurring, the strategy would benefit from more specific details about how collaboration should be achieved.

The need for challenge

Something that is lacking in the strategy, I believe, is that the Lobbying Act has not been repealed. Now, more than ever, we need honesty and challenge between government and the charitable sector. It seems archaic that not-for-profits are legally prevented from making any criticism of government policy in the run up to general elections.

Overall, the strategy reads like a vision, not a roadmap. I welcome the strategy, but it needs to include milestones if it’s to become reality.

To deliver on its aims, there needs to be more emphasis on the ‘how’ as well as the ‘what’.

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