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Civil Society Futures

Research Report

Research Report Civil Society Futures 1


Contact:
info@civilsocietyfutures.org
civilsocietyfutures.org
@civsocfutures
#civilsocietyfutures

Civil Society Futures is a national conversation about how English civil


society can flourish in a fast changing world.
Through community events, academic research and online debate, Civil
Society Futures will create a space for a much needed conversation among
those involved in all forms of civic action from informal networks to
vast charities, Facebook groups to faith groups. Considering how both the
nature of civil society and the context it exists in are changing fast, we will
investigate how to maximise the positive effects of civic action and provide
a guide to how to release its potential to drive positive change.
The conversation will be guided by an independent panel of people
with perspectives ranging from theatre making in South Wales to tech
investment in Gaza, local government in the North of England to the
worlds alliance of civil society organisations. It will be chaired by Julia
Unwin, the former chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, and
is made up of Asif Afridi, Sarah Gordon, Bert Massie, Danny Sriskandarajah,
Rhiannon White, Carolyn Wilkins, Steve Wyler, Debu Purkayastha.
This panel will be powered by a collaboration of four unique organisations.
Citizens UK has its roots in communities across England. Goldsmiths
University brings skills in academic research, looking at the changing trends
in civil society. openDemocracy facilitates wide ranging discussion about
the powerful institutions in our society. And Forum for the Future brings
years of experience of helping people figure out how the world is changing
and how best to respond.
The Inquiry has been funded by Baring Foundation, Esmee Fairbairn,
Barrow Cadbury, Paul Hamlyn, Lloyds Bank Foundation for England
and Wales, City Bridge Trust, Lankelly Chase and Calouste Gulbenkian
Foundation. Research support has also been provided by NCVO.

2 Civil Society Futures Research Report


This report aims to explore current trends and identify future possibilities
for civil society that the Inquiry will take up in the next phase of its
research and engagement. It begins with a Constructive Summary of key
elements from the background research that stand out as underpinning the
possibilities for civil society futures, and sets out the key questions they
raise. The following sections expand upon this.
Section 1 takes a brief tour around key terms and historical contexts, which
is vital to any understanding of what comes next.
Section 2 examines the impact of austerity on the voluntary and
community sector.
Section 3 looks at how this has impacted on overlooked places and what
this means in light of the localism agenda.
Section 4 picks up the theme of declining trust in elites and institutions
both in the UK and across the western world and the extent to which civil
society can create more open spaces for deliberation and contribute to a
more civil public discourse.

This report was written by the research team for the Civil Society Futures Inquiry: Belinda Pratten,
Thomas Greenwood, Natalie Fenton and Adam Dinham.

Research Report Civil Society Futures 3


Constructive summary
Walls and Bridges?

A
n inquiry in to the future of civil society suggests concern about the present. In
politics this relates to concerns about a democratic deficit, and a series of public
issue crises: an environmental crisis, a refugee crisis, and health and housing crises.
This is set against a backdrop of concerns about fake news which adds to and reflects a
lack of trust in public actors. According to the Edelman Trust Barometer (2017), between
October 2016 and January 2017 trust in government fell from 36% to 26%; in business from
45% to 33% and in the media from 32% to 24%. Britain also has a significant trust gap of
19% between informed publics (in the upper income quartile, university educated and
with a declared interest in politics and the media) and those with an income of less than
15,000.
In the economic realm, austerity, unemployment, high personal debt, extreme poverty and
inequality feature heavily. The impact of these crises is particularly marked for working
class and minority communities as well as for young people - whose experiences are also
inflected by the war on terror, student fees, housing inflation, urban riots, and youth
unemployment. An important question for the future of civil society in England is whether
social stability and harmony can prosper where poverty and inequality are apparent across
so many intersecting fault-lines: young and old, black and white, religious and secular. And
then there is Brexit: leave/remain emerges as a sort of super-divide: writ large, though too
blunt to be sure what the message really is, or how to respond.
Prominent reports have observed, [t]he need for change; the need to seek the voice of
marginalised and disadvantaged people in decision-making processes is of undeniable
and acute local, national and global relevance (RSA and JRF consultations, 2017). For civil
society, this has heightened concern but also sharpened purpose. As Viv Slack, co-founder
of Street Support, states For many, 2016 was a year of turmoil - a collective realisation
that something about how we function as a society is broken, that we are in an age of
disruption. At a global, national and local level, in economic, environmental or social
terms, there is understandable cause for concern. Yet for me personally, and for many
others, this was a year when our purpose felt clearer, new relationships and networks
blossomed, where we opened to learning, and dared to hope that we could see real change.
Civil society is inherently contested space - where actors jostle for power, influence and
impact to enact the things they want. How will those in these spaces respond to the
enormous forces for change represented by Brexit and Trump? Will the future of civil
society be one of bridges or walls? What factors may determine this?

Less State; More Civil Society?


In 2008 a global banking crisis unfolded, to which governments across the world have 1. National government
responded in a variety of ways. In England between June 2010 and March 2016 welfare Department for Work and
Pensions
reforms enacted reductions of 26 billion in UK social security and tax credits spending,
and deficit reduction was the primary goal of government. A main aim has been to
simplify the welfare reform agenda and make work pay (DWP1, 2013). 59% of reductions

4 Civil Society Futures Research Report


Welfare reforms have also hit hardest where
reliance on benefits has been greatest. The
most affected places are older industrial
areas Yorkshire, North West & North East
England, the South Wales valleys, seaside
towns like Blackpool, Hastings, Yarmouth
& Margate, and some London Boroughs
(Beatty and Fothergill, 2013). These places
have also been among the most affected
in terms of cuts to local government
(Hastings et al, 2012; Wilson et al, 2013),
reducing statutory funding to voluntary and
community sector (VCS) bodies in these
areas (Clifford, 2012, Clifford et al., 2013;
McCulloch et al, 2012).
A succession of government initiatives over
the last 50 years have attempted to tackle
economic decline in such areas, including
the National Community Development
Programme (NCDP) in the 1960s and
1970s, Urban Development Corporations
in income as a result of these reforms fall in the 1980s, City Challenge in the 1990s,
on working households. More than half of and the New Deal for Communities in
people in poverty are also in work (55% the 2000s. They have been variously
according to Tinson et al, 2016). criticised for tending to locate the blame
for disadvantage with the disadvantaged
It is apparent that these reforms are
communities themselves bought about
causing significant hardship: Although by their own lack of skills, motivation or
the proportion of people in poverty in the community (see NCDP Editorial Collective,
UK is the same as a decade ago (21%), the 1977; Faith in the City, 1985; Lister, 2002;
profile has changed. Older people are now Alcock, 2005).
far less affected, even though the number
of people over 65 has increased during this Since 2010 there have been no specific
time (Tinson et al, 2016). But young adults initiatives targeted at these areas, though
(16-24) are experiencing rapidly falling the proposed Northern Powerhouse is
real wages, incomes and wealth (Hills et intended to give greater powers to the
al, 2013:3). Poverty is also strongly linked major cities in the north of England,
with disability and ethnicity, with people including Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield
from black and minority ethnic (BME) and Newcastle, with the goal of promoting
communities experiencing multiple forms social, economic and cultural development
of socio-economic disadvantage (EHRC, in these regions (HM Treasury, 2016). A
2016). general devolution of responsibility to
local councils is part of a localism agenda,

Research Report Civil Society Futures 5


but is widely criticised for devolving Charitable resources are also unevenly
responsibility without power, or funds distributed, with many more located in
especially when local authorities in England affluent areas where they are more likely
are currently dealing with a scheduled to support cultural activities, rather than
40% cut in core funding from central basic urgent needs (Lindsay, 2013; Mohan
government. and Breeze, 2015, chapter 3). Both Lindsay
(2013) and McCulloch et al (2012) link this
to the concept of community wealth: more
Participation people in affluent communities have the
In its 2012 report, Democratic Audit time, skills resources and connections to
highlighted the role of independent participate.
voluntary associations in supporting Meanwhile the possibility of participating
and strengthening democracy, counter- in society through defending your rights is
balancing the power of the state and the diminishing. The Law Society reports that
market and holding both to account as well ordinary people are finding it more and
as creating a space in which people can more difficult to access justice because of
empower themselves in association with legal aid cuts, court closures and increased
others. The Audit concluded that there court fees, as well as changes to the rules
had been a modest improvement under regarding the legal costs a client can
new Labour in this regard, but the rise recover. In 2009-10 more than 470,000
of the contract culture was a risk to the people received advice or assistance for
sectors independence. It also suggested social welfare issues. This number dropped
that this risk had increased under the by nearly 90% by 2013-14, a year after the
Coalition government, such that voluntary governments reforms to legal aid came
organisations are now facing threats not into force. Cuts to legal aid inevitably hit
just to their independence but to their the most vulnerable in society the hardest.
survival as a result of cuts in statutory
funding (Wilks-Heeg et al, 2012).
Activism
Cuts are also related to the search for
alternative forms of delivery, wherein England has seen a resurgence in collective
people and communities are increasingly social protest in recent years, reflecting an
emphasised as co-producers rather than international resurgence in mobilisation
consumers of services (NESTA, 2009, responding to the great political and
IPPR, 2014, NHS England, 2014). This has economic crises of the early 21st century.
been criticised as hollow concealment Waves of collective action are not isolated,
of straightforward cuts. It has also been spontaneous events, but rather speak
challenged for instrumentalising civil to long histories of dissent and specific
society organisations, and distorting the contextual changes in opportunities and
relationships and values of communities, resources. This is one way of understanding
which in fact underpin the contributions the English Occupy Movement, Student
they might make (RSA, 2015, Dinham, Protests in 2010, the Urban Riots of 2011,
2012). the burgeoning Black Lives Matter UK

6 Civil Society Futures Research Report


State

Civil
? Market
society

Without a secure and independent


civil society, goals such as freedom
and equality cannot be realised.
But without the protective,
redistributive and conflict-mediating
function of the state, struggles to
transform civil society are likely to
become more fragmented.
Source: David Held

Research Report Civil Society Futures 7


movement, recent anti-Brexit and anti- food banks, solidarity economy initiatives,
Trump marches, Refugees Welcome, the alternative currency networks, prefigurative
Coal Action Network and others. experimentation, new alternative media
initiatives, and so much more (Zamponia
More social protest is not simply a result of
and Gonzlez, 2017). They argue that this
more technology: while social media may
has potentially transformative long-term
be useful in mobilising people, they do not
consequences, long after the squares are
cause protests (Fenton, 2016). And while
empty. They observe that they tend to have
public perception of civil society activism is
an online presence but are principally active
partly affected by online campaigning it is
in the thigh to thigh and eye to eye world
also countered by viewpoints disseminated
of actual meetings. Examples include:
by mass media that support dominant
narratives, (e.g. austerity is inevitable, DIY Space For London is a cooperatively-
the welfare state is too big to be efficient, run social centre located in South London
the undeserving/deserving poor). As the that offers low cost creative facilities and
ownership of mainstream media becomes social space as well as space for screenings,
evermore concentrated (Media, Reform talks and performances.
Coaltion, 2016) the role of civil society in
Homebaked is a Liverpool social enterprise
holding power to account increases. At the
which started as a group of people who
same time, serious threats to the voices
wanted to save the local bakery from
and independence of civil society have
closure. They have become a co-operative
been identified by the Baring Foundations
and community land-trust that works
Independence Panel (2015, 2016).
collectively to buy, develop and manage
This highlights the importance of existing land and buildings to improve their area,
and emerging independent community- including potentially providing affordable
orientated media, like the Bristol Cable housing.
and Gal-Dem Magazine, which provide
Sisters Uncut combine activism with self-
bottom-up access to and control over
help. With three branches in London and six
information. A key question for our inquiry
regional collectives they have highlighted
is how English independent media can
the need for secure social housing for
contribute to a strong civil society milieu by
women fleeing domestic violence. Over
better representing the un/misrepresented,
the summer 2016 the South East London
highlighting important debates and holding
branch reclaimed a vacant shop in Peckham,
decision makers to account.
hosting workshops to discuss the current
state of domestic violence services,
Self-help attended by approximately 700 people over
a month. Until they stormed Southwark
In contrast to these emerging movements Councils cabinet meeting in September,
of protest and resistance, a turn has also the group received little attention from the
been noticed towards new forms of
council.
survival tactics and social organization
based on solidarity and collective self-
empowerment, such as neighbourhood

8 Civil Society Futures Research Report


Volunteerism education/schools (34%) (Buckingham,
2012; Lindsey and Mohan, forthcoming).
Activism and self-help are very significant Others have argued that people participate
parts of the civil society picture, but for their own reasons and not in response
according to the Community Life Survey to a government agenda (Patel, 2016).
long-established forms of volunteering Volunteering is not easy to direct or steer
have also remained stable for many years. towards particular needs.
Time seems to be a major barrier
preventing more people from volunteering Civil Society
or increasing the hours they give (Mohan,
2015, Charities Aid Foundation (CAF), 2013,
Infrastructures
Brodie et al, 2011). More than half (57%) The need for an active and supportive
of respondents to a CAF survey (2013) said voluntary and community sector
that more paid volunteering leave and/or infrastructure to enable local voluntary and
fewer work commitments would make a community organisations to flourish is a
difference, with only 7% of employees able clear theme in the literature (Crisp, et al,
to have some time off work to volunteer. 2016, Bolton, 2013, Moore & Mullins, 2013).
Others have argued that the reality of This is not the capacity-building support
working life for many people today - to enable organisations to deliver public
insecure, low paid, zero hours contracts services that characterised programmes
makes volunteering unrealistic (Mohan, such as Change Up (Home Office, 2004)
2015, Buckingham, 2012, Coote, 2010). or its successor, Capacitybuilders (2006).
Mohan suggests that if we want to promote What is highlighted are local infrastructure
more voluntary action we need to recognise organisations (LIOs) that can help groups
that we are working against the grain of develop and learn, co-ordinate their
economic and housing policy (Mohan, activities, represent their interests and
2015:12). connect them to resources and decision-
It is equally important to understand makers in other sectors. Yet this goes
what motivates people to participate. The against the grain of policy, which has
evidence suggests that many do so for sought to promote a market-place of
personal and social reasons, and especially support to empower organisations as
because of their faith (Dinham 2012). It can consumers of LIO services (Rochester,
also be rooted more broadly in values, 2013). This has been reflected in the closure
their sense of community, whether of of the Regional Development Agencies,
identity, interest or place, or simply a desire and threats to the funding of Councils of
for friendship and conviviality (Jochum et Voluntary Service (CVS), as well as the
al, 2005:33). closure of national bodies including the
Community Development Foundation
What volunteers do is also noteworthy. and CDX. Yet the value of infrastructure
Most people volunteer in the areas of bodies, and LIOs in particular, has been
sport and exercise (54%), arts, hobbies and recognised by the Independent Commission
recreational activities (40%) and childrens on Local Infrastructure (2015), convened by

Research Report Civil Society Futures 9


the National Association for Voluntary and which respond to the local, for example
Community Action. This found that many in the diocesan structures of the Anglican
LIOs were struggling with rising demand and and Catholic churches. These often mean
cuts to their service. The report concluded that they maintain a long-term and very
that there is a compelling case to be made for rooted presence in every area, even where
long term investment in local infrastructure, many other agencies may have withdrawn.
but LIOs also need to review their provision Others draw on their long histories as
in light of the new normal and ensure that providers of community support through
the services they offer are relevant to the established charitable organisations. Their
needs and circumstances of the sector today. values and relationality are often regarded
as underpinning effective civil society
In the gaps, new approaches seem to be participation. On the other hand, widespread
emerging: Community Mutuals, Credit ideas of faiths as oppressive, sexist,
Unions, Community Land Trusts, Co- homophobic, evangelical and violent feed in
operative childcare etc. While such to an idea of them as best kept to the private,
community action can be valuable, it is often not public realm. This tension plays out in
by its nature small-scale and cannot be a context which depends upon faith groups
expected to tackle area-wide disadvantage to plug gaps in services and communities,
in isolation (Crisp, et al, 2016:i). The wider whilst struggling to talk well about them
social, political and economic context (Dinham 2015).
impacts not only on local areas, but also
on peoples ability to participate and their
power to influence the wider determinants
of poverty and disadvantage that affect their
lives and the life of their community (Buckley
et al, 2017, Crisp et al, 2016, IVAR, 2015).
Partnership with business, local councils and
other public agencies, including the NHS,
can be an important enabler of (or barrier to)
change (Matthews and Pratt, 2012, Aiken et
al, 2011).

Adapting forms of civil


society?
Trade Unions are huge presences in the civil
society milieu. Part-political, part-activist,
part-service provider, their role in the future
is also changing and new forms of union
activity are emerging. The Independent
Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) is
an example of a new, smaller union working
creatively and on a small scale for workers
rights. It is a small, independent trade
union originating from the big unions,
whose members are predominantly low
paid migrant workers in London. Another
emerging shift is towards the unionising of
the precariat from traditional city bicycle
couriers to gain the London Living Wage to
Uber and Deliveroo food delivery couriers.
Faith Groups also have a long and leading
tradition of service and action in civil
society spaces. A 2007 review shows that
the majority of faith based community
activity takes place through projects and
associations (Dinham 2007). What is also
clear is that faiths are particularly well
placed to engage in such ways. Many
traditions have organisational structures

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Call for contributions
Deadline for
Public call for evidence to gather existing knowledge initial submissions
and insights is Monday 5th
September 2017
The call for evidence builds on this initial research report and will help expand and deepen - via the form
the initial review and its associated open database. This call will further inform the future available on
research direction of the inquiry. civilsocietyfutures.
The call for evidence sits alongside a strand of research via community workshops in org/call-for-
eight locations across England. Further engagement via a series of Civil Society Futures contributions/
Conversations will be running in parallel for communities of practise, interest or locality. Were also seeking
Civil Society Futures is an independent inquiry into how civil society can flourish in a opinion pieces on
fast changing world. In order to answer this question, we want to gather as much wisdom the same topics
as possible. As such, the Inquiry invites submissions that help answer the following you can get in
questions: touch with Adam,
adam.ramsay@
1. What purposes does civil society fulfill now? What purposes will civil society need opendemocracy.net,
to fulfil in the future? What do you think they should or should not be doing? if you would like to
2. What is driving or inhibiting change in civil society? How will different forms of contribute to the
civil society respond to social, political, economic, environmental and technological hub in other ways.
change over the future? For any queries,
3. What new forms of civil society do you see emerging now and why? Given the please contact
right circumstances, what might their impact be in the future? Kharda:

4. How and in what ways can civil society enable human flourishing now and in the k.aden@
future? In what ways is civil society important for a healthy democracy? forumforthefuture.
org.
Responses should be no longer than 1,000 words and multimedia contributions are
encouraged. Contributions may be shared publicly on the online hub, so your submissions
will support the creation an open source bank of research into the future of civil society.
All submissions received will be reviewed by the Inquiry panel members and a synthesis
will be shared on this online hub as appropriate. We may have an additional call for
evidence in Jan 2018 depending on initial submissions.

Research Report Civil Society Futures 11


1. The Historical: making
sense of the present.

Civil society activity meets fundamental human wants and needs, and
provides an expression for hopes and aspirations. It reaches part of our
lives and souls that are beyond the state and business. It takes much of
what we care about in our private lives and gives it shape and structure.
Helping us amplify care, compassion and hope.
(Carnegie UK Trust Commission of Enquiry into the Future of Civil Society, 2010:3)

12 Civil Society Futures Research Report


F
or many years now the term civil how we ought to behave (Barber, 1998:12).
society has been the focus of It is likely that many versions coexist and
attention for academics, policy- it may be more accurate to talk about civil
makers and others, including some within societies, plural.
the voluntary and community sector. Yet
in spite of its increasing prominence, and
general acceptance of it as a good thing,
Civil Society and
its meaning remains contested. This Democracy
contestation reflects a range of forms of
emotional and financial investment in and Both Barber and Edwards emphasise the
engagement with forms of societal activity importance of civil society in protecting
that often defy restrictive categorisations and strengthening democracy. For Barber
and as such, the term civil society is it offers room for us to engage with
perhaps best understood as a synthesis of neighbours, friends, citizens, strangers
these strands (Edwards, 2004; Barber, 1998). who must of necessity live together
(Barber, 1989:34). Edwards argues that
the good society is not self-evident
Civil Society as and therefore draws on a third strand of
Associational Life thought (following Habermas) - the idea of
civil society as a discursive public sphere,
At the core of a definition of civil society where people debate ends and means,
is the idea of independent voluntary identify common interests and agree or
associations and voluntary action, people disagree - upon the kind of society they
coming together without the state (or other want to live in.
ties). Historically (since the 18th century)
In theory, a multiplicity of voluntary
the liberal or libertarian view of civil society
associations enables different voices,
identified it as the realm of individual,
needs and interests to be heard; in practice
private life as distinct from the public realm
there are large differentials in the power
of the state. More recent commentators
of associations to make their voices heard
have identified it as the space between
[and] advance their own agendas (Edwards,
the state and the market public and
2004:45). These inequalities of power
private sectors as well as family and
require strong democratic institutions
kinship networks (Barber, 1998; Keane,
that engage with and take account of
1998; Edwards, 2004). Evers and Laville
marginalised views. As Held (1989) has
(2004) suggest that the boundaries of this
argued:
space are not fixed, but rather the different
spheres are held in tension with each other, Without a secure and independent
changing over time and from place to civil society, goals such as freedom and
place. For example, civil society in western equality cannot be realised. But without
democracies will have a different shape to the protective, redistributive and conflict-
places such as Eastern Europe in the 1980s mediating function of the state, struggles to
and more recently the Middle East, where transform civil society are likely to become
it has been defined by popular uprisings more fragmented, or the bearers of new
against totalitarian regimes (Barber, 1989). forms of inequality of power, wealth or
status.
A Normative Concept This suggests the Inquiry needs to
understand and explore the breadth and
A second strand is the idea of civil society richness of associational life, the diversity
as the good society, the kind of society of organisations and associations within
in which we want to live (Edwards, 2004). civil society and how these intersect with
On its own this would suggest that, as a other spheres (state, market and family
concept, civil society is little more than a life).
hurrah word (Dinham, 2012), but allied
to associational life it raises the question It also highlights the need to look at civil
of altruistic action and mutual support society from both an empirical perspective
on the one hand, and on the other the - what is actually happening to, and in civil
uncivil tendencies of civil society (Keane, society today, and where this trajectory
1998), including its potential for racism, might be leading - and a normative one,
sexism and homophobia (Edwards, 2004). linked to questions of power and social
In linking these two strands, civil society justice, and what civil society needs to do to
tells us something about how we actually create futures which reflect this.
do behave even as it suggests an ideal of

Research Report Civil Society Futures 13


This also points to a need to focus on and mainstream users, members and
democratic institutions and engagement: communities.
how to ensure that marginalised voices are
The relationship and articulation between
heard in the mainstream and how to create
the voluntary sector and civil society is
safe places for public debate, at a time of
an area that the Inquiry into the Future of
apparently increasing polarisation.
Civil Society will be considering throughout
Twenty years ago Benjamin Barber its deliberations: to address not only how
(1989:11) talked of the growing incivility of much attention should be focused on
our public discourse (betokening an uncivil formal organisations and associations, but
society), yet after Brexit, and the 2016 US also how formal and informal activities
election, as well as the rise of trolling and contribute to civil society in both empirical
other abusive behaviour on social media, and normative terms. As Evers (2013)
it could be argued that this incivility has argues:
reached a new low. How can we strengthen
instead of making the term third
civil society so that it can promote a
sector and civil society almost
discourse that allows for:
equivalent, it might be better to work on
The development of shared interests, an open question concerning the various
a willingness to cede some territory to degrees and ways in which different
others, the ability to see something of types of third sector organisations may
oneself in those who are different and serve to promote and cultivate civil
work together more effectively as a society There may be uncivil societies
result all these are crucial attributes that nonetheless have a large third
for effective governance, practical sector and vice versa
problem-solving and the peaceful
For Evers every attempt to narrow down
resolution of differences.
civil society to the third sector seriously
(Edwards, 2004:55) impoverishes the very concept of civil
society (2010:116). Following Edwards
(2004), he argues that the state plays a vital
Civil Society and the role in providing a legal and regulatory
Voluntary and Community framework to support democratic
engagement and help to create a level
Sector playing field for citizen participation: a
Although civil society is most often Big Society does not mean a small state.
associated with social action and social Indeed, as argued above, strong democratic
values, rather than particular organisational institutions help to make society more civil;
forms (Alcock, 2010:9), the emphasis on they are also necessary to tackle deeper
voluntary action and associations suggests structural problems and manifestations
significant overlaps with the voluntary and of social injustice that citizens and
community sector (VCS) and a wider third communities cannot reach.
sector. This relationship was brought to the
fore by the National Council for Voluntary Faiths and Civil Society
Organisations (NCVO), which used VCS
as the preferred collective term for the Within the wider VCS, faith groups have a
sector between 2005 and 2010. In doing so long tradition of service and action, tracing
its aim was two-fold: firstly to replace the back through Victorian philanthropy. A
term Third Sector, a definition coined by national review of the literature on faiths
government and never particularly popular activities in communities in the UK was
within the sector itself; and secondly as conducted in 2007 (Dinham 2007). This
a unifying term for the wide diversity demonstrated the breadth and scale of
of organisations and activities under its what faiths were doing in communities in
umbrella. England. In the South East, Beyond Belief
(March 2004) claims that there are at least
In this context, the voluntary and
two community action projects for each
community sector becomes a vital part
faith centre in the region. In the East,
of a much wider civil society not only a
Faith in the East of England (July 2005)
collective term for providers of services
identifies 180,000 beneficiaries of faith
or meeters of need, but also a catalyst
based community development. In London,
for voluntary action and participation; a
Neighbourhood Renewal in London: the role
promulgator of social values and social
of faith communities (May 2002) identifies
justice; and a voice for marginalised
7000 projects and 2200 faith buildings. In

14 Civil Society Futures Research Report


the West Midlands, Believing in the Region constables or helping out in a health
(May 2006) reports that 80% of faith setting, while voluntary organisations may
groups deliver some kind of service to seek to provide services on behalf of the
the wider community. In the North West, state, often in competition with private
Faith in Englands North West (November companies. Changes in these other spheres
2003) shows that faith communities are also impact on civil society, as the Deakin
running more than 5000 social action Commission (1996:15) noted:
projects and that faith communities are
when the tides of change sweep
generating income of 69m - 94m per
through society as a whole, the contours
annum. In Yorkshire and the Humber, Count
of voluntary action also shift. When the
Us In (2000) suggests that in Hull 90% of
state advances, the voluntary sector
churches are involved in social action and
adjusts its role accordingly. When the
Angels and Advocates (November 2002)
state retreats and the market advances
reports that there are 6500 social action
voluntary organisations adapt their
projects in churches. In the South West,
missions
Faith in Action (June 2006) claims that
165,000 people are supported by faith
groups in the region by 4762 activities.
While in the East Midlands, Faith in
Derbyshire (May 2006) says that, on average,
churches run nine community activities.
Though the regions (and nature of the data)
differ considerably, one thing is clear: the
types of activities which faith communities
are engaged in is broad from children
and youth orientated projects, to social The State & Civil Society
events such as lunch clubs and befriending
schemes to cultural events. While the form of partnership between
state and civil society may have changed
The review shows that the majority of over time, it has a long history. For much
faith based community activity takes of the last 150 years, this space has been
place through projects and associations shaped to a considerable extent by the
and forms a vital part of the history of ebbs and flows of state and voluntary
civil society. But it is also key to its future: action in meeting peoples welfare needs
what is clear about faiths and social action and furthering social justice. In the late
in community projects is that faiths are 19th Century there was a proliferation of
particularly well placed to engage in such friendly societies and other forms of mutual
ways. Many traditions have organisational aid, such as savings banks, allied to the
structures which respond to the local, for development of co-operative and trade
example in the diocesan structures of the union movements (Thane, 1996).
Anglican and Catholic churches. These
often mean that they maintain a long- Prochaska provides a compelling account of
term and very rooted presence in every the prominence of the Churches as primary
area, even where many other agencies actors throughout this period (Prochaska
may have withdrawn. Others draw on their 1996) a time when faiths (or rather,
long histories as providers of community Christian traditions) were not just active,
support through established charitable but were leaders in providing services in
organisations. response to need. At the same time it is
argued that a growing awareness of poverty
led to a flourishing of charitable activity:
Shifting Boundaries in London alone over 140 new charities
were established between 1850 and 1860
While the space for civil society is
(Fraser, 1981); although the effect of this
created and continuously recreated
was often haphazard, with some good
by the actions of people themselves,
causes over-patronised, others ignored
the boundaries between this and other
(Fraser, 1981:120). Others (e.g. Morris,
spheres are also porous (Deakin, 2001). For
2006) contest this as an overly optimistic
example, corporate social responsibility
historiography and point to a rather more
programmes see private companies cross
balanced mix of public and voluntary aid.
over the border in one direction, while
campaigns for ethical consumerism head Although these organisations played a
the other way. Individuals may choose to key role in the provision of welfare at
volunteer in the public sector, as special this time, they did so in association with

Research Report Civil Society Futures 15


statutory agencies, including the Poor Law funding from grants to competitive
authorities (Harris, 2010). It is also worth commissioning. At the same time there
noting that amongst those involved in has been a growing expectation that CSOs
philanthropy and charitable activity were should become self-sustainable, generating
some of the leading social reformers of the and diversifying sources of income rather
time, such as Lord Shaftesbury and Octavia than being financially dependent (IVAR,
Hill (Fraser, 1981, Thane, 1996). Again, 2016a).
this suggests a longstanding link between
Second, it is argued that an emphasis on
voluntary action and campaigns for social
out-sourcing has detached them from
reform, as well as faiths, even if many of
democracy, depoliticising decisions about
these early pioneers also sought to reform
public welfare and the public good. Citizens
or evangelise the recipients of charity.
are recast as consumers as collective
The development of the welfare state decisions are transformed into questions
over the course of the 20th Century, and of individual need and choice (Croft and
particularly its flourishing between 1945 Beresford, 1996; Prior et al 1996; Cornwall
-1979, meant that faith-based, community and Gaventa, 2001, Lister, 2001). If civil
and voluntary organisations played less society is to offer room for us to engage
of a role in meeting peoples basic needs, with neighbours, friends, citizens, strangers
often instead providing services that who must of necessity live together
were complementary or ancillary to state (Barber, op cit), then there also need to be
provision (Wolfenden Committee on the mechanisms to enable people to identify
Future of Voluntary Organisations, 1978). and negotiate their common interests. This
Voluntary action was also influenced space is inevitably reduced when councils
by the rise of social movements in the are overseeing rather than delivering
1980s, which challenged the paternalism contracts. Moreover, by focusing primarily
of traditional charity as well as providing on the relationship between consumers and
a broader critique of, and alternatives services, the role of relationships outside of
to state welfare (Deakin, 2001; Pratten, such market exchanges are obscured (Sayer,
1997). More importantly they embraced the 2016).
idea of agency and self-advocacy, people
In looking at the future of civil society,
acting and speaking for themselves rather
account should be taken of these shifting
than others doing so for them (Croft and
boundaries within and between both state
Beresford, 1996). This can be seen, for
and market, how these shape the space
example, in the decision of the RNIB to
for action and how civil society actors can
change its name from the Royal Society for
effect change in these other spheres all of
the Blind to the Royal Society of the Blind.
which have been influenced by the attempts
of successive governments to engage
To Market people in their communities and in local
decision-making.
Today the relationship between state and
civil society remains an important one, but
in recent years, and particularly the last Active Citizens: from
decade, markets and market mechanisms sector to society
have predominated. An emphasis on
commissioning and contestability, Our vision is of a society in which
which began under the Thatcher/Major citizens are inspired to make a positive
administrations and continued as part difference to their communities and
of New Labours modernisation agenda, are able to influence the policies and
has arguably been given greater impetus services that affect their lives.
in the context of austerity. For example,
D Blunkett, 2003 cited in Jochum et
councils and other public agencies have
al, 2005
sought further to outsource and share
services (both front-line and back-office) as The government is supporting people
a means of reducing costs and improving who care about their communities and
performance, although there is little want to get involved in improving them.
evidence to suggest that either goal has It believes that people understand the
been achieved (Whitfield, 2014). needs of their area best, which is why
it is transferring power so people can
The impact this has had on civil society
make more decisions locally and solve
appears to be far reaching. First, for civil
their own problems to create strong,
society organisations (CSOs), marketisation
attractive and thriving neighbourhoods.
has led to a major shift in government

16 Civil Society Futures Research Report


2. The Organisational:
making stuff happen and
sustaining activity.
The voluntary sector, in all its diversity, has in common both some
distinctive forms of governance and a set of values which are not
determined by the financial bottom-line or by an electoral mandate.
These values include not just what you do, but how you do it. Voluntary
organisations also have a set of distinctive relationships with their
different stakeholders Our concern is to try to turn good intentions
into accountable and effective action without forfeiting what is distinctive
about the sector.
(Deakin Commission, 1996:121)

UK Government website (Community and Society) 2017


Giving greater power to citizens and communities has been a recurring theme in public
policy over at least the last two decades, from New Labours Active Citizens and its
emphasis on civil renewal (Blunkett, 2003) and double devolution (D Miliband, 2006)
to David Camerons short lived Big Society and the localism agenda (Department for
Communities and Local Government, 2011). While the Left has tended to emphasise the
relationship between the state and the third (or civil society) sector, since 2010 the focus of
the Right has been on community self-help (Moore and Mullins, 2013), people doing things
for themselves rather than the state doing things for them. The aim has been to usher in
new freedoms and flexibilities for local government and new rights and powers for local
communities (DCLG, 2011).
Yet there are inevitable limits to how much communities can do for themselves, as McCabe
argues: While communities can affect change, there are structural and global factors (from
mass unemployment to the power of multi-national corporations and global warming)
that cannot easily be solved at a nation-state level, let alone a nano community level.
(2010:11). This is particularly true of those in more deprived communities as 50 years of
regeneration initiatives has found (see for example NCDP Editorial Collective, 1977; Faith
in the City, 1985; Lister, 2002; Alcock, 2005).
As importantly, this new localism has been introduced against a background of austerity
and resulting state retrenchment, with a predicted black hole in local government
funding of 5.8 billion by 2020 (Local Government Association, 2017). It is difficult for
people and communities to be makers and shapers (Cornwall and Gaventa, 2001) when
local authorities are needing to be cutters and shutters. And it is especially difficult to
find equitable solutions to social problems when resources are unevenly distributed and
scarcest where they are needed most. Cuts of 40% to core local authority funding and
welfare reforms have had a cumulative impact, hitting people hardest where deprivation
(and therefore reliance on benefits) is greatest, with older, industrial areas and seaside
towns worst affected (Beatty and Fothergill, 2013; Wilson et al, 2013).

Research Report Civil Society Futures 17


The Voluntary and unique because they are mission- and 1. NCVO figures are
based on a general
values-driven (Blake et al, 2006, Third
Community Sector Sector Network, 2006). In particular their
charities definition,
they include Scotland

A
closeness to users and communities, and and Northern Ireland
lthough voluntary action has existed
their capacity for innovation is often (Charity Commission
for centuries in various forms, the covers only England and
highlighted (NCVO, 2017, Office of the
idea of a distinct voluntary or third Wales). NCVO exclude
Third Sector, 2006). This was once referred some organisations that
sector is relatively recent, shaped and
to as the sectors added value, although are registered with the
contested - by policy-makers, practitioners
such claims cannot always be assumed Charity Commission
and academics (Alcock, 2010). This notion primarily because a)
(Bolton, 2003). A question is whether these
of a sector emerged from a growing interest they are inactive or
characteristics are core or contingent: what duplicates, b) they belong
in the role of voluntary organisations and
evidence is there for this in practice, for elsewhere in civil society
their relationship to the state (Wolfenden
example, how do organisations live their eg independent schools,
Committee on the Future of Voluntary faith groups and trade
values (Jochum and Pratten, 2009)?
Organisations, 1978, Faith in the City, 1985, associations, and c) they
Deakin Commission, 1996) and reached its In the context of an increasingly mixed have charitable status
but are not independent
zenith under the New Labour governments economy of welfare, some have questioned of government, these
of 1997-2010 (Kendall, 2000, Alcock, 2010, whether this notion of distinction is still include NHS charities
Alcock and Kendall, 2010). relevant or if it has been replaced by more and quangos such as the
hybrid organisations in all sectors (Billis, British Council.
The concept of a distinct third sector was
2010, Buckingham, 2011). Others have 2. Organisations based
constructed in response to the New Labour
warned of isomorphism, the idea that in the East Midlands,
agenda, as a strategic unity rather than the North East and the
CSOs are becoming indistinguishable from
a unified sector (Alcock, 2010), and one North West receive on
the state or from business. This has most average 39%, 39% and
that is fractured, fragile and potentially
often been raised in relation to Housing 42% respectively of their
fragmentary (Alcock and Kendall, 2010).
Associations, but interestingly the end income from government,
This is evident in the fact that today few wheras London-based
point has changed over time: in 2001
people use the term third sector. Recent organisations and those
Deakin questioned whether they were too in the East and the South
Coalition and Conservative Governments
close to the state and had become little West receive only 28%,
have preferred to talk of a voluntary,
more than its passive agent (2001:9), ten 26% and 28% respectively
community and social enterprise sector of their income from
years later Purkiss asked whether they had
(VCSE), and even then primarily in relation government (Bernard et
prioritised market share over social purpose al, 2017)
to delivering public services rather than
(2011).
any wider role. Policy has tended to focus
on citizens and communities, rather than While claims of hybridisation and
organisations. isomorphism may have been over-stated,
this does raise questions as to how the
prevailing policy environment impacts
Questions of distinction on CSOs and the extent to which an
This changing terminology reflects a organisations distinctive characteristics
long-standing, unresolved and arguably may be contingent on external factors
irresolvable issue of labelling and definition (Macmillan, 2013).
in relation to voluntary and community
action (MacMillan, 2013: 42). These Size and Scope of the
issues tend to be linked to attempts to
define and defend boundaries with other Voluntary Sector
sectors and thus to claims that CSOs are

Table 1

2011/12 Micro - Small Medium Large Major Super Major


< 10,000 10,000 100,000 - 1m -10m 10m- >100 m
-100,000 1m 100m
No of 81,104 54,477 22,150 4613 579 42
Proportion 49.8% 33.4% 15.5% 2.8% 0.4% 0.02%
of orgs
Income 0.2bn 1.9bn 6.8bn 13.3bn 14.6bn 8.6bn
Proportion 0.5% 4.4% 14.9% 29.2% 32.3% 18.7%
of income

Source: NCVO UK Civil Society Almanac


2017.1

18 Civil Society Futures Research Report


Attempts to measure and scrutinise (Bernard et al, 2017) However, this growth
voluntary action have led to an accidental has been predominantly in the very largest
over-emphasis on formally constituted organisations, those with an income of over
organisations because they are visible and 100 million, the category NCVO now define
reachable (Salamon and Anheier, 1997). as super major (Bernard et al, 2017). The
This is the approach taken by NCVOs number of organisations in this category
much-respected annual Almanac, which is rose from 40 to 42 in 2014/15 (compared to
based on annual reports and accounts filed only 33 in 2012/13).
with the Charity Commission, although
In contrast, it has been a much harsher and
this inevitably means there is a slight time
more insecure environment for the small
lag and the latest year for which we have
and medium-sized organisations (with an
figures is 2014/15.
income between 25,000 and 1 million).
According to the latest Almanac (2017), These organisations have experienced
in 2014/15 there were 165,801 registered significant fluctuations in income since
charities in the UK with a combined 2009/2010 with proportionately bigger
income of 45.5 billion. As table 1 below losses in government income during this
shows, most (49.8%) have an income of time. Gains from other sources, particularly
less than 10,000 a year, but just over individuals, have not been sufficient to
50% of the sectors income is held by a cover the shortfall, with the total income
small number of Major and Super Major of small and medium sized organisations
sized organisations just 0.42% of the staying the same or decreasing between
organisations in the sector. 2013/14 and 2014/15. (NCVO, 2017). This
includes organisations working with,
and often very much embedded in more
Statutory Funding marginalised communities. Although the
Although most organisations do not receive sample on which this analysis was based
funding from government sources, it is the was not large enough to be representative
second largest source of income for the it points to a potential concern for those
sector as a whole. Moreover, organisations types of small organisations that have
working in more deprived areas (Clifford, significant specialist knowledge about the
2012; Clifford et al., 2013; Mohan and needs of the communities they serve and
Clifford, 2016) and/or with women (Walby expertise in working with them effectively
and Towers, 2013, Womens Aid, 2016) and to meet those needs (see for example,
BME communities (Ware, 2013) tend to be Department of Health, 2016; Lloyds Bank
most reliant on statutory funding and it is Foundation, 2016a), yet many are struggling
here that the impact of cuts can be seen to survive in this environment if they fail
most clearly.2 this knowledge and expertise will be lost
(Imkaan, 2016).
Under New Labour, government funding for
the sector increased steadily from 2000/01, While the nature of voluntary sector
reaching a peak of 15.2 billion in 2009/10. funding means that some fluctuation is
This was primarily a result of voluntary normal, the current financial environment
organisations delivering more public has exacerbated this, leading to much
services: in 2003/04 more than half of the greater volatility and mounting insecurity
sectors income was from government and (NCVO, 2017, IVAR, 2016a). For many CEOs,
of this 12bn, 6.1 billion was in the form of funding has become a critical concern
grants. By 2014/15 the proportion of income (Cracknel et al, 2014; Pratten, 2014).
from government in the form of grants had The squeeze on public sector budgets
fallen to 19%, or 2.89 billion. In 2014/15 means that funding does not always
81% of the 15.3bn the sector received from cover the full cost of providing a service
government was earned through contracts and organisations are therefore drawing
or fees (Bernard et al, 2017). on their reserves to keep going: 62% of
organisations in the north east of England
The latest figures from NCVO show that (Pharaoh, et al, 2014) and 75% of womens
in 2014/15 government spending stood organisations (Pratten, 2014) have said
at 15.3bn, an increase of around 0.2bn they are using their own funds to subsidise
on the previous year. This is the second services in this way. Across the sector as a
consecutive year that statutory funding has whole, the value of reserves fell by almost
increased, (though the increase was rather 2 billion between 2010/11 and 2011/12
less than the 0.5bn increase to 2013/14), (Kane et al, 2014), and in 2013/14 around
which accounts for 17% of the increase in one third of small and medium-sized
the sectors income over the last two years organisations reported having no reserves

Research Report Civil Society Futures 19


at all, (NCVO, 2016), suggesting that this Successive governments have committed to
response is not atypical. developing a social investment market to
provide loan finance to CSOs to help them
scale up and compete more effectively in
Changes to this market place (SIFT 2005, 2010, DCMS,
Commissioning 2016). Yet this assumes that it is both
appropriate and desirable for organisations
A more competitive commissioning to do this. And in practice demand for social
environment means that small and investment appears to be driven more
medium-sized organisations may now find by a need for working capital to alleviate
themselves in competition for funding cash-flow problems arising from deferred
with private sector companies as well as payments for services provided (IVAR,
other charities. The following quote from 2016c). Similarly the Public Services (Social
an environmental organisation is typical Value) Act 2012 allows commissioners to
of many organisations from all parts of the factor in social value as well as cost when
sector: awarding contracts, which could favour
Loss of public sector funding across CSOs although it has not been well used.
the board. Tight procurement rules However, questions of value are not neutral
requiring public sector to run expensive and needs and priorities are determined
and time consuming tenders before by commissioners, not by voluntary
supporting projects, even where these organisations or their beneficiaries.
have been initiated by non-profits, More recently the Minister for Civil
and development time carried out at Society has announced a programme
our risk. Aggressive competition for of changes designed to overcome the
local work from national and regional barriers that smaller organisations face
organisations that were previously fully in commissioning processes (Wilson,
funded by government. 2016). What is not clear is whether these
(Cracknel et al, 2014:11) challenges can be overcome by tinkering at
the edges, or whether it is the model itself
Yet the key issue appears to be size rather that is at fault: is it possible or desirable for
than sector (Rees et al, 2013), with the mission-driven organisations to thrive in a
process seemingly weighted in favour of market driven world?
larger organisations. For example:
Fewer, larger contracts make it
harder for small and medium-sized
Transfer or
voluntary organisations (or private Transformation?
businesses) to compete;
Throughout the New Labour years (1997-
Much tighter financial 2010) it was apparent that a policy agenda
requirements are being used in the supporting civil renewal and collective
early prequalifying stages of the decision-making sat uncomfortably
procurement process and many alongside other elements that give greater
organisations do not get past this priority to involving individual consumers
stage; (Jochum et al, 2005:33). Yet by the end of
Public procurement is now the decade these other elements had come
dominated by a relatively small to the fore, with choice and contestability
number of key players: in 2012/13 driving public service reform (see for
four major contractors, Capita, Serco, example the NHS Act 2006).
Atos and G4S held around 4 billion Although some voices, notably the
worth of government contracts Association of Chief Executives of
(Public Accounts Committee, Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO, 2004),
2013/4); had argued that voluntary organisations
The introduction of payment by should replace the state, there was limited
results shifts financial risk from support for this. What most voluntary
funders to providers and precludes organisations wanted was the opportunity
those who cannot afford to invest up- to bring their specialist knowledge,
front, primarily but not exclusively experience and skills, including their
voluntary organisations (Rees, 2013; knowledge of community needs and
Shiel and Briedenbach-Roe, 2014). experience of involving service users, to
service delivery. From the governments
perspective, they were also seen as coming

20 Civil Society Futures Research Report


67.8% of all business
investment in arts
and culture and 90%
of individual giving
goes to organisations
in London.
Source: Arts and Business 2014

Research Report Civil Society Futures 21


with less institutional baggage and to fundraise most effectively in 2014-15
therefore better able to respond to user income from individuals provided 44% of
needs than bureaucratic imperatives (HM income for Super-major organisations and
Treasury, 2002). But while these aspirations 43% of income for Major organisations.
were shared, at least in part, funding (NCVO Funding Commission, 2010).
mechanisms have not enabled them to be According to the 2015 Charitable Giving
realised, as NCVO recognised early on: Survey (CAF, 2016a), more than two thirds
of the population (67%) in the UK had given
Commissioners need to review what it
to the charity in the previous year and 42%
is they value in public service delivery,
had donated in the previous month, with
and how that is recognised and
levels of charitable giving remaining stable
rewarded through the procurement
over time. In terms of global comparisons
process, if they are not to drive out
(CAF, 2016b), the UK is the most generous
many of the very characteristics and
country in Europe.
benefits that VCOs at their best can
bring to service delivery. Although most donations are still in
cash, in recent years a number of online
(Blackmore, 2006)
platforms have been developed to simplify
The growing marketization of services giving, such as Justgiving and Localgiving
and the impact of austerity has driven out as well as CAF Donate, set up by the
many of these characteristics and benefits. Charities Aid Foundation. CAF Donate
As a result many smaller organisations was set up in 2014 and has since collected
are struggling to survive, while the very over 70 million for 2,800 charities (CAF,
largest appear to be increasing their market 2017). Although this is still only a very
share. Yet as Lloyds Bank Foundation small proportion of the total amount of
suggests, these organisations play a critical individual donations many charities are
but often unseen role, able to be flexible increasingly looking to social media to
and responsive to need, embedded in the support fundraising (Harris and McCabe,
community and offering a holistic service 2017). Oxfam, for example, have introduced
to those facing the greatest disadvantage a MyOxfam app, making it easier for people
(2016:1). to find out about how their money is spent
as well as to donate.
Cuts to public services have led to a
growing interest in alternative forms of As part of the Big Society agenda, the
delivery, whereby people and communities Government made a commitment to
are co-producers rather than simply establish giving as a social norm. In 2011
consumers of services (NESTA, 2009, the Giving White Paper set out a number
IPPR, 2014, NHS England, 2014). The of ways in which government hoped to
Department of Healths VCSE Review, encourage and stimulate people to give
for example, highlighted the value of their time and money to good causes. This
organisations working with communities includes, for example,
to address service resistant problems, like
The Innovation in Giving Fund, a
loneliness and stigma and design more
10 million fund managed by NESTA
effective, sustainable services and systems
to enable organisations to create a
(Department of Health, 2016:7).
step change in charitable giving;
Changes to Gift Aid, making it
Charitable Giving and easier to submit claims, particularly
Volunteering for small organisations (HMRC,
2013);
Money from individuals, in the form of
donations, legacies and fees for services, Improving Payroll Giving, making
continues to be the most important source the system easier for both employers
of funding for the majority of voluntary and employees (HM Treasury, 2013).
organisations, accounting for 20.6bn in While these developments are welcome it is
2014/15 - 45% of the sectors income and a unclear whether they have had any notable
0.8bn increase on 2013/14 (NCVO, Bernard impact. Fundraising at scale is expensive.
et al, 2017). It is the most important In 2010/11 the voluntary sector as a whole
source of income for the very smallest spent 2.9 billion on fundraising and
organisations, with Micro and Small publicity, of this 54p out of every 1 was
organisations receiving 59% of their income spent by major organisations, those with
from individuals in 2014/15. It is also an income of 10 million or more. These
important for the very largest who are able organisations invested 14% of their total

22 Civil Society Futures Research Report


expenditure on fundraising and gained 42% Oxford, made by the Wellcome Trust across
of their income from donations, raising on a number of separate grants.
average 4.40 for every 1 spent (Kane et
al, 2014). But for organisations that cannot
afford to invest in this way, individual
Role of Grant-Makers
donations are little more than a useful Nevertheless, more organisations appear
extra, (Pratten, 2014) rarely enough to fund to be looking to charitable trusts and
a project or pay a wage. foundations for support at this time. This
But will increasing the number of people is a recurring theme in a number of recent
who are willing to give, or give more studies, for example those looking at the
frequently, increase the range of causes state of womens organisations (Pratten,
they give to? Charitable giving reflects a 2014), environmental organisations
persons tastes, preferences and passions, (Cracknel, et al, 2014); and the arts
and people do not give to the most urgent (Arts and Business, 2014). Although not
needs, but support causes that mean the most significant source in terms of
something to them (Breeze, 2010:2). Over monetary value (3.8 billion in 2013/4
the years there has been little variation in or 9.2% of the sectors income), trusts
the most popular causes, with more people and foundations tend to be valued by
regularly giving to medical, childrens recipients, not least because they are seen
and animal charities than other causes to be less bureaucratic and more aligned
although the balance between them may with an organisations mission and values
change. In 2015, for example, charities than other sources (particularly statutory)
supporting children and young people (Pharoah et al, 2014, Cracknel et al, 2014).
topped the list, with medical research It would also appear that a number of
coming a close second (CAF 2016). foundations have recognised the impact of
austerity on voluntary organisations and
There is also evidence of uneven have increased their support to charities as
distributional effects between places as well a consequence.
as causes. For example London receives a
higher proportion of philanthropic funding
than other areas: 67.8% of all business Trust and Confidence in
investment in arts and culture and 90% of Charities
individual giving goes to organisations in
the capital (Arts and Business, 2014). This As in other institutions (see section 4),
is not a new phenomenon, Fraser (1981) public trust and confidence in charities
notes that in the late nineteenth century has fallen in recent years (Edelman, 2017).
east London charities were relatively well- The most recent survey undertaken by
provided for because of their proximity to Populus for the Charity Commission
the wealth of the City. This is a potential (Charity Commission, 2016) found that on a
concern for the future of civil society if 10-point scale, public trust and confidence
welfare provision, and other good causes, had fallen from 6.7 in 2012 and 2014 to 5.7
are to become more reliant on charitable in 2016. One third of respondents (33%)
giving and philanthropy. said they now had less trust in charities
than previously, only 6% said it had
Allied to this is the increasing number of increased. Despite this, 93% think charities
major donors (giving 1 million or more) play an essential role in society today.
who also use their own time, networks,
expertise and convening power to actively This survey followed a series of negative
control where the money goes and how media stories about chief executives pay,
it is spent, primarily through their own the demise of Kids Company and scandals
foundations (Coutts, 2016). While this about fundraising tactics. Perhaps the
level of generosity is to be welcomed in most egregious of these was in relation
the UK 355 donors gave a total of 1.83 to high pay in the sector. A subsequent
billion in 2015 it also raises questions review commissioned by NCVO found that
about the distribution of power within civil there was not a problem of high pay in the
society particularly if we compare this to sector with only 1% of charities employing
the 185 million raised by bake sales (CAF, someone earning more than 60,000
2013). In 2015, higher education was the (and these were mainly independent
top recipient subsector, accounting for 35% schools, care home/health care providers
of the total value of donations worth 1m or research charities) and only 0.2% had
or more (Bernard et al, 2017). The highest anyone earning 100,000 or more (NCVO,
overall donation went to the University of 2014). However, the review concluded that

Research Report Civil Society Futures 23


3. The Social: making life
liveable
Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places close
to home the world of the individual person; the neighbourhood he lives
in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he
works. Such are the places where every man, woman and child seeks
equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Un-
less these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere.
Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall
look in vain for progress in the larger world.
Eleanor Roosevelt, 1948

charities should be transparent about staff remuneration, with the information easily
available to donors and supporters on the organisations website.
The spotlight on fundraising appears to have been of a different magnitude, revealing
unethical practices, such as ignoring the Telephone Preference Service and selling personal
data about donors, by some of the best known charities. These appear to have been long-
standing practices: in one study in 2010 interviewees spoke of the impossible amount of
direct mail from charities and their regret at not being able to respond to the number of
requests they received (Breeze, 2010:21). In response to media concerns about this issue,
in 2015 the government asked NCVO, to undertake a review of fundraising practice in
England. As a result there is now a new Fundraising Regulator, responsible for overseeing
compliance with an agreed code of practice and adjudicating on potential breaches, in
co-operation with the Charity Commission and the Information Commissioners Office. In
addition, individuals must now actively consent to receiving information from charities
(NCVO, 2016b).
The Parliamentary Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee held
two separate inquiries into charity fundraising (PACAC, Third Report 2015-16) and Kids
Company (PACAC, Fourth Report 2015-16). In relation to fundraising it accepted the
recommendations of the NCVO Review (as had the government), but warned that it was
the last chance for self-regulation. Both reports also highlighted the role of trustees in
ensuring proper oversight of charities. In response to this a revised Governance Code for
Voluntary Organisations has been developed and consulted on, which includes stronger
standards for larger charities. It is suggested that large charities should adopt a comply or
explain principle, whereby large charities that do not comply with these standards must
explain why not (Governance Code, 2017).
In all these reviews, a common theme is that charities should be more transparent to
demonstrate that they deserve the publics trust. Evidence suggests that people are less
likely to question organisations and causes that reflect their own values and beliefs, and
this can be a strong basis for trust (Yongjiao, et al, 2016). But this also suggests that trust
could be lost if organisations do not put their values into practice, if they are seen to
act unethically. External regulation and codes of practice can be useful, but could signal
that organisations cannot be trusted to act ethically of their own accord (Keating and
Thrandardottir, 2016). This suggests that charities themselves must grasp this nettle and
seek to generate greater understanding of what they do, what they are for and what they
have achieved.

24 Civil Society Futures Research Report


I
n a context of austerity and welfare (Tinson et al, 2016). In contrast, younger
reform, there is a greater emphasis on adults (16-24 years) are experiencing
voluntarism. Do communities have the rapidly falling real wages, incomes and
capacity to take on new roles or will this wealth (Hills et al, 2013:3). There are also
lead to new manifestations of inequality strong links between poverty and disability
and social need? As importantly, what role (ibid) and ethnicity, with people from
will civil society play, will it simply seek Black and minority ethnic communities
to fill in the gaps or become an engine of experiencing multiple forms of socio-
social change? economic disadvantage (EHRC, 2016).

Welfare reform and the Geographical Inequalities


impact of austerity Welfare reforms have also hit hardest where
reliance on benefits has been greatest, the
Between June 2010 and March 2016 welfare
worst affected places being older, industrial
reforms resulted in reductions of 26
areas Yorkshire, North West & North
billion in UK social security and tax credits
East England; the South Wales valleys;
spending (10% of the overall bill) and
seaside towns such as Blackpool, Hastings,
59% of reductions in income as a result of
Yarmouth & Margate; and some London
these reforms fall on working households.
Boroughs (Beatty and Fothergill, 2013).
The number of people in poverty who are
These places have also been most affected
in a working family is at a record high of
by cuts to local government (Hastings et
55% (Tinson et al, 2016). Although the
al, 2012; Wilson et al, 2013) and this has
proportion of people in poverty in the UK is
had a knock-on effect for voluntary and
the same as a decade ago (21%), the profile
community organisations, which are more
has changed, with many fewer older people
reliant on statutory funding in these areas
affected, even though the number of people
(Clifford, 2012; Clifford et al, 2013). Yet
over 65 years has increased during this time

Research Report Civil Society Futures 25


many of the underlying problems in these has remained stable for many years, for
regions are structural rather than cyclical. example:
They existed before the recession and, if
47% said they had volunteered in
current trends continue, will remain after it
the previous month (the same as in
has ended.
2014/15) and 70% in the last year
Over the last 50 years there has been (69% in 2014/15);
a succession of government initiatives
Fewer people volunteer formally,
aimed at tackling economic decline in
for an organisation: 41% had done
such areas. Notable are the National
so in the last year, compared to 60%
Community Development Programme
who had volunteered informally
(NCDP) of the 1960s and 1970s; Urban
(providing unpaid help to people who
Development Corporations in the 1980s;
are not related to you);
City Challenge in the 1990s; and the New
Deal for Communities in the 2000s. Some The number of people engaging in
constructed disadvantaged communities employer-supported volunteering
themselves as the problem (in lack of also remains the same at 8%
skills, motivation, and community). Some (although slightly higher than in
focused on local agencies and partnerships. 2012/13, when it was 6%).
Others emphasised enterprise. But all
Other studies have shown that people are
failed to address the underlying structural
more or less likely to volunteer at different
causes and consequences of industrial
stages in their lives (Mohan, 2015, Brodie
decline (see for example NCDP Editorial
et al, 2011). For example, students in full
Collective, 1977; Faith in the City, 1985;
time higher education, are more than twice
Lister, 2002; Alcock, 2005). As Faith in the
as likely to volunteer as other age groups
City reported, then as now: Viewed against
(CAF, 2016). Therefore it is possible that
the magnitude of the problem, government
more people engage over a lifetime than
action has been pragmatic: treating the
can be seen from these surveys which
worst evidence of economic decline and
only provide a snapshot (Mohan, 2015).
poverty by small-scale intervention
Nevertheless, findings from the Community
(1985:173). These same post-industrial
Life Survey (since 2012) and its predecessor,
areas remain overlooked and too often
the Citizenship Survey (2001 2011),
ignored (Unwin, 2016:4).
have been consistent with only minor
Since 2010 there have been no specific fluctuations over time. This suggests it is by
initiatives targeted at these areas, but no means certain that there is a latent pool
the proposed Northern Powerhouse is of willing localists (Moore and Mullins,
intended to give greater powers to the 2013) waiting to come forward.
major cities in the north of England
Lack of time seems to be one barrier
(including Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield
preventing more people from volunteering
and Newcastle) to promote social, economic
(or volunteering more), when people have
and cultural development in these regions
busy lives and are already juggling paid
(HM Treasury, 2016). Alongside this there
work and caring responsibilities (Charities
has been a more general shift to devolve
Aid Foundation (CAF), 2013, Brodie et
responsibility to local councils and local
al, 2011). The reality of working life for
communities as part of the localism agenda,
most people today - insecure, low paid,
but against this background of long-term
zero hours contracts - not only makes it
decline and 40% cuts in core funding from
extremely difficult for people to commit
central government, there is a danger that
to regular volunteering, it also renders
under localism already deep divisions could
calls for time off work to do so unrealistic
become deeper still. Giving greater power to
(Mohan, 2015, Buckingham, 2012, Coote,
communities may be a positive aim, but this
2010). Moreover, in the current economic
looks very different if driven by an austerity
climate, when resources are scarce, people
agenda than by one with social justice as a
in low income areas tend to give less
core concern (Taylor, 2011).
priority to community-based activities
(Crisp et al, 2016). Mohan suggests that
Volunteering & if we want to promote more voluntary
action we need to recognise that we are
Community Participation working against the grain of economic and
According to the Community Life Survey housing policy (Mohan, 2015:12). As IVAR
2015-2016, commissioned by the Cabinet (2014) has noted: The challenge of getting
Office, the number of people volunteering people involved, keeping them involved

26 Civil Society Futures Research Report


and widening the numbers involved is and Bulloch (2013) asked respondents if
sharpened when welfare and other reforms they felt that the communities they live in
are biting. have the capacity to meet their own needs
through volunteering. While no-one felt
It is equally important to understand
very confident, some in more affluent areas
what motivates people to participate.
were aware that there were capable and
The evidence suggests that they do so
committed people (often retirees) with
for personal and social reasons, because
the wealth, skills and time to give to local
of their faith or values, their sense of
causes in their community. In contrast
community, whether of identity, interest
people in more deprived areas were more
or place, or simply a desire for friendship
doubtful, as this account from an ex-mining
and conviviality (Jochum, et al, 2005:33).
community suggests:
Studies show that most people choose to
volunteer in the areas of sport and exercise So there is a community, definitely, but
(54%), arts, hobbies and recreational unfortunately not one that would pull
activities (40%) and childrens education / together to make things happen. Theres
schools (34%) (Buckingham, 2012). In other a kind of fatigue thats come with being
words, people participate for their own economically downtrodden, a fatalism.
reasons and not in response to government People dont seem to have much confidence
initiatives (Patel, 2016), unless of course and rely on others to make a stand.
they are taking part in action opposing
(Lindsey and Bulloch, 2013)
government policy (McCabe, 2010), such as
anti-war demonstrations or encouraging
people to welcome and support refugees Capacity Building and
(Citizens UK, 2017).
Infrastructure
The Civic Core When people in more deprived areas have
less community wealth to draw on and
But it is not just a question of numbers: face greater challenges in securing the
looking at who gives to charity, who necessary skills, knowledge and contacts
volunteers and/or participates in civic they need to achieve change (Lindsey,
activities, the Third Sector Research Centre 2013, Moore and Mullins, 2013, Aiken, et
has shown that there is a relatively narrow al, 2011), voluntarism alone will do little
civic core: to ameliorate the impact of austerity or
the experience of long-term industrial
a group constituting less than 10%
decline. Proposals that seek simply to
of the population contribute between
increase volunteering as a means to build
24% and 51% of the total civic
community capacity without recognising
engagement, depending on which
the consequences of long term industrial
dimension is examined. The social
decline and deeply felt, multi-layered forms
characteristics of members of these
of deprivation will not be able to effect
core groups are analysed and it is
social change. To do this will require more
shown that members of the civic core
purposeful support, including a transfer
are drawn predominantly from the most
of power which enables people to become
prosperous, middle-aged and highly
agents of change, not just objects of policy.
educated sections of the population,
and that they are most likely to live in In recent years charitable foundations
the least deprived parts of the country. have shown an interest in developing
programmes focused on local people and
(Mohan and Bulloch, 2013)
places (see for example, IVAR, 2017, Bolton
Charitable resources are also unevenly 2015, 2013, Telfer, 2013, Phillips et al, 2011).
distributed with many more located in Recent projects in this vein include the
more affluent areas (Clifford, 2012) where Big Lottery Funds Big Local programme,
they are more likely to support cultural which gave residents in 150 local areas
activities, rather than urgent needs, 1million to use to improve their local area,
and less reliant on statutory funding or with minimal strings attached (IVAR, 2015)
paid staff (Lindsay, 2013). Both Lindsey and the RSAs project within the Connected
(2013) and Mohan (2015) attribute this to Communities programme, which aimed
socioeconomic segregation and varying to research and strengthen relationships
levels of poverty and affluence with more within communities (Parsfield et al, 2015).
people in more affluent communities There is now a growing literature setting
having the time, skills resources and out the lessons that can be drawn from
connections to engage in this way. Lindsey such initiatives. This includes, for example,

Research Report Civil Society Futures 27


an historical review of place-based locally-led initiatives. For organisations
approaches by IVAR for Lankelly Chase such as credit unions or self-help housing
Foundation (IVAR, 2016a, 2017); a review associations, there is a tension between
of community-led approaches to reducing achieving growth and leveraging in external
poverty in neighbourhoods (Crisp et al, resources and preserving local leadership
2016); and a scoping study of community- and the community-led ethos that drives
led responses to climate change (Matthews them (Crisp,et al, 2016, Moore and Mullins,
and Pratt, 2012) as well as learning from the 2013).
projects mentioned above. It is clear from
An asset-based approach can also be
these studies that place-based initiatives
applied to community capacity-building,
do little to compensate for the massive
recognising that community development
withdrawal of place-specific statutory
and learning is not the same as training
funding such as the abandoning of Labours
(McCabe and Phillimore, 2012). While
regeneration programmes.
communities need on-going, targeted
However, research also points towards the technical (and financial) support (Moore
importance of focussing on, and valuing and Mullins, 2013), building collective
relationships within communities, not rather than individual capacity is critical.
just responding to austerity or a service As McCabe and Phillimores study on
delivery agenda (RSA, 2015, Dinham, 2012). community learning found, Social
Examining the benefits of community- networks were the key to the development
led projects to tackle poverty Crisp et al of each group and to the accessing of the
highlight the complexity of this: skills and knowledge they need to get on.
Furthermore, social activity and solidarity
Identifying what works in tackling
played a key role in resilience and
poverty imposes an instrumental
affecting change (2012:16) although there
concern with outcomes and impact on
are clearly limits to what such strategies
activities which are not necessarily
can achieve.
conceived and delivered in those
terms. Community led approaches are This suggests a need to understand the
often as much about the process of complexity of associational life and
mobilising individuals and communities community as both a lived relationship
as pursuing a clear defined set of and a site for learning (Dinham, 2012,
outcomes. (2016:3) Ledwith, 2011) and develop approaches
to social action that enable both to
Whilst volunteering rates and levels of
flourish. This includes enabling people
social capital are linked, to effect social
within communities to work together to
change requires long term support,
question and explore the problems they
changing cultures and addressing complex
face and the forces that shape their lives
issues that have developed over decades
(Ledwith, 2011). It also involves enabling
takes time IVAR, 2017:29). McCulloch,
them to determine what skills and talents
Mohan and Smith (2012) also argue that
they have to achieve change and what
in the absence of significant mainstream
additional resources they need (Dinham,
efforts to sustain the economies of
2012). For example, partnership with
neighbourhoods, raising levels of
business, local councils and other public
volunteering is unlikely to bring about
agencies, including the NHS, can be an
change. Long-term support includes on-
important enabler of (or barrier to) change
going financial support. As Matthews and
(Matthews and Pratt, 2012, Aiken et al,
Pratt note intermittent or poor funding
21011), the question is how to bring these
is one of the main reasons that initiatives
resources together to support the agendas
fizzle out (2012:iii). In spite of a growing
of communities themselves.
interest in community enterprise, in
practice it is very difficult for community A clear theme in the literature is the need
initiatives to be financially self-sustaining for an active and supportive voluntary and
(Crisp et al, 2016, Moore and Mullins, community sector infrastructure that can
2013). Indeed, IVAR suggests that for CSOs build relationships within and between
and funders, sustainability has multiple communities and between civil society
meanings and the idea that organisations and these other sectors (Crisp, et al, 2016,
can become self-sustaining is often a Bolton, 2015, Moore & Mullins, 2013).
fantasy (IVAR, 2016b). While market logic Organisations that can help groups develop
might suggest that successful organisations and learn, co-ordinate their activities,
can scale-up and increase their market represent their interests and connect them
share, this creates a real dilemma for to resources and decision-makers. Yet this

28 Civil Society Futures Research Report


goes against the grain of policy, which
has sought to promote a market-place
of support to empower organisations
as consumers of services (Rochester,
2013). But if the support required is
relational rather than transactional,
then voice and accountability become
more important than market choice. This
poses a compelling case for long term
investment in local infrastructure that is
relevant to the needs and circumstances
of the sector, but this requires new models
of funding and provision to adapt and
change (Independent Commission on Local
Infrastructure, 2015).

Building Community
As Edwards (2004) has argued, associational
life can reflect and shape wider social
divisions and inequalities, of class, gender,
ethnicity and faith. It is therefore important
to understand how these divisions are
reproduced or countered within civil
society (Mann et al, 2100) particularly in
the context of on-going concerns around
social integration and rising hate crime in
the UK (Casey, 2016) and globally (Amnesty
International, 2017).
In the most recent Community Life Survey,
89% of people agreed that their local area
is a place where people from different
backgrounds get on well together, an
increase of 3% on the previous year - the
highest level recorded since 2003 (Cabinet
Office, 2016). While this finding is very
welcome, it must be seen against a rise
in reported hate crimes in recent years.
Between 2014 and 2015 there was a 326%
rise in reported street-based anti-Muslim
incidents (Hansard, 29.6.2016). In the days
after the EU referendum (23rd- 26th June
2016) there was a 57% increase in reported
hate crime, with more incidents reported in
areas that voted leave (Stone, 2016) a trend
that was sustained for at least another
month (Travis, 2016).
While some have linked a lack of
community accord to the effects of spatial
segregation, with high concentrations
of minority ethnic communities living
in separate neighbourhoods from their
white British counterparts (Cantle, 2001;
Cantle and Kaufmann, 2016), a recent
comprehensive review of social scientific
evidence has shown that income inequality
and deprivation are far more important
determinants of community discord in the
UK (Demireva, 2015). In its response to
the Casey Review (2016), the Runnymede
Trust argued that these inequalities are

Research Report Civil Society Futures 29


4. The Political: making
change possible
Participation, Resistance and Dissent

[...] A countrys democracy lies as much in the vitality of its citizens


self-organisation in all aspects of their collective life what has come to
be called civil society as well as their formal relation to government.
Civil society is both an important arena within which citizens are empow-
ered in the management of their own affairs and a key agency for making
government accountable and responsive.
Beetham et al, 2002, cited in Wilks Heeg et al, 2012

persistent and widespread, they remain a major barrier in modern Britain, and that
responding to these inequalities and creating the condition for everyone to interact as
equals should remain the starting point for any integration policy (Runnymede Trust,
2016).

Immigration
In the media and elsewhere, diversity, integration and immigration are too often conflated
in ways that are unhelpful (Demireva, 2015). Immigration has long been high on the list
of peoples concerns, with successive polls recording significant majorities in favour of
reducing the number of migrants entering the UK (Edelman, 2016, Blinder and Allen,
2016). However, ICM research on public attitudes towards immigration for British Future,
undertaken after the Brexit referendum, suggest that beyond the most vocal extremes
public opinion is more nuanced with most people being anxious reducers. For example,
the poll found there is support for skilled workers being allowed into Britain, with 46%
willing to see this increased and only 12% believing it should be reduced. Proportions
among leave voters were similar at 45% and 15% respectively. While there is much less
support for unskilled workers, once one paints a picture of an actual person, rather than
a generic figure, even if it is just by stating their job, people are more likely to give them a
fair shot at joining our society (ICM 2016:12)
This report suggests that, overall, there is no strong public desire to reduce immigration at
all costs, but people are concerned that politicians want to close down debate rather than
engage with their concerns (Edelman, 2016). In response to this British Future suggests
that a national conversation on immigration is needed so that peoples views are heard
and they can have a role in shaping policy in this area:
While immigration remains a high profile issue, we are not good at talking about it. This
means we do not have the opportunity to put forward our views or to hear the opinions
of others. Contested narratives are not articulated and renegotiated; communities are
not offered a space in which to come to a consensus about immigration and integration.
Talking about immigration and how we live together, and agreeing on what constitutes a
decent debate, also helps communities to challenge hate crime and prejudice.
(Katwala, et al, 2016)
How can civil society help to develop approaches to social action that respond to the
needs and aspirations of people themselves, rather than those of elites in a society that
is becoming more economically and socially segregated? And at a time when views are
becoming more polarised, how can it create space for debate and deliberation where people
can develop shared interest and see something of oneself in those who are different and
work together more effectively as a result (Edwards, 2004 op cit)?

30 Civil Society Futures Research Report


Twice as many
65 74 year olds
as 18 24 year
olds say they are
absolutely
certain to vote.
Source: Hansard Society 2016

Research Report Civil Society Futures 31


A
n active and vibrant civil society is 2015 general election at 65%, the highest
a vital pre-requisite for a healthy since 2001, and more people claiming to be
democracy, enabling different voices strong supporters of a political party (41%)
to be heard and different ideas about the than at any time since 2003 but inequality
good society, and the values that underpin had also increased: there is now a 37
it, to be contested and debated. percentage point difference between the
certainty to vote levels of those in social
classes AB and DE, an increase of six points
Trust in politics in 12 months (Hansard Society, 2016,
Yet across the world, trust in political and p.6). The audit also highlighted a distinct
other institutions has been in decline, generational divide, with more than twice
and in Britain it is at a historic low and as many people aged 65 74 years (80%)
apparently still falling. According to the than 18-24 year olds (39%) saying they were
Edelman Trust Barometer (2017), between absolutely certain to vote (ibid, p.55).
October 2016 and January 2017 trust At the same time, overall confidence in the
in government fell from 36% to 26%; in system, and especially in peoples ability to
business from 45% to 33% and in the media influence decisions, is low:
from 32% to 24%. The authors describe
this steep plunge as a crisis of trust and Only a third of the public think the
Britain itself as being on a cliff edge. system by which Britain is governed
Similarly polling by Ipsos MORI saw trust works well (33%) with those living
in politicians in the UK fall from 21% at the furthest from Westminster most likely
end of 2015 to 16% at the end of 2016. to be dissatisfied. Just 35% believe
that when people like themselves get
Britain also has a significant trust gap involved in politics they can change the
of 19% (second only to the United States) way the country is run. Only 13% feel
between informed publics (in the upper they have some influence over decision-
income quartile, university educated and making nationally although 41% would
with a declared interest in politics and the like to be involved in decision-making.
media) and those with an income less than More people (46%) would like to be
15,000. Moreover both groups have less involved in local decisions but just 25%
trust in government this year than they did currently feel they have some influence
last year. Amongst the least affluent it has at the local level.
hit a new low of just 20%, but it has also
fallen significantly amongst the wealthiest, (Hansard Society, 2016, p.6)
from 54% in 2016 to 38% in 2017 (Edelman, This is the backdrop against which the EU
2017). referendum turnout of over 72% took place,
Disenchantment with, and disengagement apparently bringing to the surface deep
from, the political system is not new. divisions of class as well as generation,
Turnout at elections and party membership divisions that cannot be divided from
has been largely in decline since the 1960s, the economic dislocation that has taken
particularly amongst working class voters place since the 1980s (Dorling et al
(Heath, 2016) and young people (Gardiner, 2016). Studies by the Joseph Rowntree
2016); although the last general election Foundation (Goodwin and Heath, 2016)
and the surge in Labour Party membership and the Resolution Foundation (Clarke,
when Corbyn became leader bucked this 2016) both find that low skilled and working
trend (see below). But as the Power Inquiry class voters in the most deprived regions
(2005) found, the general disengagement were more likely to vote Brexit. Given
from formal institutional political processes the longstanding decline in working class
appears to have less to do with voter apathy participation at elections (Heath, 2016),
than with a preference for pressure politics. particularly in these post-industrial areas
Even in 2005, before the MPs expenses (Power Inquiry, 2006), it is interesting that
scandal, politicians were held in very low it only came to public attention when these
esteem and widely distrusted (2005:16). voters re-engaged.
The counter movement against
Political participation globalisation has loosely been called
populism and comes with a revival of
The Hansard Societys 2016 Audit, political participation as new parties spring
undertaken before the Brexit referendum, up (UKIP) and new leaders come forth
found formal political participation had (Corbyn). The surge in voting is largely
increased overall - with voter turnout in the linked to those who are outside of the

32 Civil Society Futures Research Report


post-war party system; those deemed to Deakin Inquiry had pointed out six years
be outside of a professional political elite. earlier.
This is joined by a revival in the notion of
While austerity measures do appear to
democracy and the possibility of those at
have had both direct and indirect impacts
the bottom reminding those at the top that
on the sectors voice and independence
they matter.
- for example, through gagging clauses
in contracts (Independence Panel, 2015)
Why engage? - even more pervasive have been changes
in the political environment. Since 2010
This suggests that the democratic deficit is there has been mounting criticism of
not a sign of apathy: people will turn out to charity campaigning, not least from within
vote if they think it will make a difference. government. For example organisations
Even amongst the younger generation such as Oxfam and the Trussell Trust have
turnout for the EU referendum was higher been much criticised for drawing attention
than predicted, with 65% of 18-24 year olds to poverty in the UK today, with both
voting (75% of whom for remain), while organisations accused of being overtly
60% of all new voters (who had not voted political (Butler, 2014), and the Trussell
in the 2015 election) voted leave. Trust being accused by the Department for
Arguably, the scope of political decision- Work and Pensions (ibid) of drumming up
making has become much reduced since business. Most recently the Red Cross has
the 1990s, particularly at a local level. been admonished for meddling in politics
An emphasis on economic efficiency has after it spoke out about the crisis in the
depoliticised much government decision- NHS (Phillips, 2016). The EU referendum
making, transforming social, political also appears to have emboldened certain
and moral dilemmas into technical and sections of the media, which have been
managerial problems, leaving little room very quick to jump on dissenting voices
for public voice (Prior et al, 1996; Pratten, as enemies of the people, whether this
1997). At the same time, little attempt be Gary Lineker or Supreme Court judges
has been made to understand or address (Williams, 2017).
underlying structural inequalities. Instead The Institute for Economics Affairs
globalisation has tended to be treated as continues to accuse voluntary organisations
an immutable economic fact rather than that campaign of being fake charities and
something that can be shaped politically sock puppets (Snowden, 2012), arguing that
(Lister, 2001:431). As Unwin has argued, charities should be helping poor people
people in the overlooked and too often rather than campaigning against the causes
ignored parts of the country voted leave of poverty. This argument has carried
because they werent satisfied with what weight with some parts of government,
they have. And they didnt feel able to leading to the now (mostly) rescinded anti-
change things (2016:4). advocacy clause. It also appears to have
implicitly informed Charity Commission
Voluntary Organisations, guidance on campaigning by charities
in the EU referendum, which was much
Voice and Advocacy more restrictive than that produced by its
In its 2012 report, Democratic Audit counterparts in Scotland and Northern
highlighted the role of independent Ireland (Charity Commission for England
voluntary associations in supporting and Wales, 2016; Charity Commission
and strengthening democracy, counter- for Northern Ireland, 2016; Office of the
balancing the power of the state and the Scottish Regulator, 2016).
market and holding both to account as well Other specific threats to the sectors voice
as creating a space in which people can and independence are identified by the
empower themselves in association with Baring Foundations Independence Panel
others. The Audit included an assessment (2015, 2016) and include:
of outcomes for civil participation and
engagement, including a healthy and Commitments to recognise the
vibrant civil society, since 2002. It sectors right to campaign, and to
concluded that there had been a modest be consulted at an early stage on
improvement under new Labour, but the policy developments, set out in the
rise of the contract culture was a risk to Compact between the government
the sectors independence - something the and the sector, have been watered
down (National Audit Office, 2015);

Research Report Civil Society Futures 33


The Transparency of Lobbying, sackings prompted a public boycott and
Non-Party Campaigning and Trade campaigning from high-profile figures
Union Administration Act 2014 (the such as the writer Will Self. Bosses then
Lobbying Act) has created a chilling backed down and said no one working at
climate for charity campaigners the Brixton cinema will face redundancy.
and remains unchanged in spite Despite these gains, there appears to be a
of recommendations for reform lack of faith in the Trade Union movement,
identified by Conservative peer Lord as in politics and the media. Union
Hodgson (2016); and membership is at 6.49 million in May 2016
(ONS), representing 24.7% of the workforce
Reform of Judicial Review,
down from 32.4% in 1995, even though the
particularly the imposition of
workforce has grown significantly.
new financial restrictions, will
make it much harder for voluntary
organisations to challenge
government decisions, as it was
intended to do, according to the then
Secretary of State for Justice: Social Media and Social
The professional campaigners of Activism
Britain are growing in number, taking Other new forms of activism are emerging
over charities, dominating BBC that are much less dependent on formal
programmes and swarming around bricks and mortar organisations (Bennett
Westminster Britain cannot afford to and Sederberg, 2012). Digital technology
allow a culture of Left-wing dominated, has enabled people to self organise,
single issue activism to hold back our building and sustaining new social
country from investing in infrastructure movements and grassroots campaigns. As
and new sources of energy and from Fenton states, this has led to a new means
bringing down the cost of our welfare of, and a new meaning of being political
state. (2016:25).
(Grayling, 2013) Such movements are often consciously
Civil society has long given rise to calls political, seeking to challenge the
for social justice, from the abolition of prevailing political and economic
slavery to the (on-going) campaign for the orthodoxy (the Occupy, Blockupy and
living wage. Its continuing ability to do so Indignados movements), oppressive
should therefore be of central concern to an regimes (Arab Spring) or practices (Black
inquiry into its future: If the space for civil Lives Matter, #Muslim Ban). While each of
society is closing and developments in these are alike in so far as they have used
the UK are helping to legitimise regressive social media to facilitate action, they each
trends in the treatment of civil society need to be understood in their particular
organisations globally as the Charities historical and political context (Fenton,
Aid Foundation has argued (2016:2) 2016); civil society is as much about
then any inquiry into the futures of civil common history as common activities
society should make clear the possible (Edwards, 2004). Nevertheless in all cases
consequences. social media has made it easier to connect,
collaborate, mobilise and report on
The Inquiry should also look to places
resistance in real time.
and spaces where civil society is growing
such as examples of new trade union Social media has also enabled small
impulses and organising. One example is producers, including local enterprises and
the Independent Workers Union of Great small charities, to emerge and develop
Britain that has successfully organised where previously this would have been
amongst cleaners, security guards, difficult (McCabe and Harris, 2017a:13).
couriers and foster care workers. In 2015 This can be seen in local campaigns in
Brixton Ritzys staff and their union Betcu the UK that have been enabled by digital
successfully challenged bosses about communications, for example:
living wage rates and redundancies. The Focus E15 is a campaign started in
first campaign achieved wage increases 2013 by young mothers threatened
to the London Living Wage. Bosses then with eviction from the hostel
threatened up to 34 redundancies because where they were living, after
they said they could not afford to pay the Newham Council cut its funding,
increased wages. News of the potential to be rehoused outside of London,

34 Civil Society Futures Research Report


away from their families and social Digital technology changes the dynamics
networks. The campaign came of communication, ostensibly facilitating
to prominence in 2014 after they opportunities for individuals to participate.
occupied a block of flats on a local But this on-line presence is most
estate that the council was planning effective when linked to off-line activities
to sell to private developers. Since and opportunities to build solidarity
then they have continued to be (Cammaerts, 2015, Gerbaudo, 2012, Taylor,
active, building links with and 2015). For example, 38 Degrees, best known
supporting tenants on other estates, for organising e-petitions has begun to
including the Guinness Trust-owned set up local groups, hosting events and
Northwold estate in Hackney, a organising meetings with MPs (Fenton,
third of which is under threat of 2016). Similarly, Sisters Uncut has a strong
demolition, to be replaced by luxury online presence which it has used to drive
flats for sale at market prices. direct action, but a network of off-line
groups has since emerged, enabling women
Acorn UK was founded in 2014 by
to meet face-to-face and organise on the
private tenants in Easton, Bristol to
ground locally: connective ties supporting
campaign to end evictions, rip-off
collective action.
tenancy fees and unhealthy housing
and help communities to organise in However, the internet and social media
support of more ethical housing. It in particular, also stands accused of
now operates in 8 cities in England naturalising the segregation of society
and has just successfully won its first into echo chambers. Based on the notion
national campaign, getting Santander that birds of a feather flock together the
to agree to drop a clause in its internet predicts who we are depending
contracts requiring landlords to raise on who we follow on Twitter, who we
rents to the maximum. like on Facebook, the ads we linger
over, producing network analytics that
Just Space is an informal alliance
naturalises the segregation it finds and
of community groups, campaigns
making a commercial and political virtue
and independent organisations
out of the fact that we tend to be similar to
established in 2006. It aims to
our friends. Social media is also criticised
enable Londoners to participate
for facilitating mass-surveillance, enabling
in planning decisions and ensure
the state to over-ride civil liberties and pre-
that those decisions take account
empt dissent (Fenton, 2016).
of community needs and not just
the interests of developers. Recent Furthermore, connective activity online
actions include a public protest in does not transcend social and economic
Haringey against selling public assets inequalities. In the UK almost all of the
to private developers (14.2.17) and wealthiest people use the internet while
working with the Chair of the London this falls to 58 per cent amongst the lowest
Assembly Economy Committee, income group (less than 12,500) (Dutton
encouraging people to tweet et al., 2013). Just as patterns of economic
their views on the needs of small inequality are replicated in access to
enterprises to inform the committees healthcare and educational attainment
deliberations (21.2.17). (Wilkinson and Pickett, 2009) so they map
onto access to and uses of technology
Digital technology enables people to
(Pew, 2015). There is a digital divide:
communicate with each other and
internet users are still younger, more highly
respond to events as part of their everyday
educated and richer than non-users, and
interactions, from friends and networks
more likely to be men than women, and
that they themselves have selected. This
more likely to live in cities. Furthermore,
self-selection not only makes the medium
the Oxford Internet Institute point out
(eg. Twitter or Facebook) more trust-worthy
that the one aspect of internet usage that
(according to Edelman (2017), family,
correlates with social class and educational
friends and peers are the most trusted
attainment is use for informational or
sources of information and certain sections
political purposes (Blank and Groselj,
of the mainstream media the least trusted),
2015). Social media does not exist in a
it also increases motivation to participate
vacuum. While it has the potential to bring
with others in your network, as well as call
new voices into political debates, it can
them to action (Cammaerts, 2015, Taylor,
also reflect and reinforce existing social
2015).
relations and patterns of privilege. The

Research Report Civil Society Futures 35


5. Remaking Possibilities

Fewer people feel they can influence local decisions, disenchantment


with the political system remains widespread and communities are less
strong. A market-based model for reforming public services is concen-
trating power in the hands of new quasi-monopoly private sector provid-
ers rather than in the hands of local people and is reducing, not increas-
ing transparency and accountability.
(Civil Exchange, 2015:6)

internet may be democratizing, but more often than not its effects are felt most strongly amongst the middle class
(Fenton, 2016).

Civil Society Organisations and Social Media


The more established and formal civil society organisations appear to have been slow to adopt, or adapt to digital
technology and there has been little research on the potential of social media to support social action by voluntary
and community organisations (Harris and McCabe, 2017a). Where it has been used, it has been largely to support
marketing and fundraising, rather than campaigning or community action (ibid). This has led some to suggest that
CSOs might be missing a significant opportunity to build mutually beneficial relationships with stakeholders
(Bortree and Selzer, 2009, cited in Harris and McCabe, 2017a:8). The limited research there is suggests that where
communities have had an active on-line presence this has tended to strengthen offline activity, often social
activity, rather than promote social action or community activism (Matthews, 2016, Harris and Flouch, 2011).
Recent research by Harris and McCabe (2017b) suggest that there are very good reasons why community
organisations dont use, or no longer use social media, noting the time and resources invested, and the
technological challenges incurred. Other research has indicated that NGOs are frequently seduced by the potential
of new technology but this quickly turns into a tyranny with CSOs needing to constantly update their systems and
chase the latest trends with ever diminishing resource (Fenton, 2010).

36 Civil Society Futures Research Report


Call for contributions
Deadline for
Public call for evidence to gather existing knowledge initial submissions
and insights is Monday 5th
September 2017
The call for evidence builds on this initial research report and will help expand and deepen - via the form
the initial review and its associated open database. This call will further inform the future available on
research direction of the inquiry. civilsocietyfutures.
The call for evidence sits alongside a strand of research via community workshops in org/call-for-
eight locations across England. Further engagement via a series of Civil Society Futures contributions/
Conversations will be running in parallel for communities of practise, interest or locality. Were also seeking
Civil Society Futures is an independent inquiry into how civil society can flourish in a opinion pieces on
fast changing world. In order to answer this question, we want to gather as much wisdom the same topics
as possible. As such, the Inquiry invites submissions that help answer the following you can get in
questions: touch with Adam,
adam.ramsay@
1. What purposes does civil society fulfill now? What purposes will civil society need opendemocracy.net,
to fulfil in the future? What do you think they should or should not be doing? if you would like to
2. What is driving or inhibiting change in civil society? How will different forms of contribute to the
civil society respond to social, political, economic, environmental and technological hub in other ways.
change over the future? For any queries,
3. What new forms of civil society do you see emerging now and why? Given the please contact
right circumstances, what might their impact be in the future? Kharda:

4. How and in what ways can civil society enable human flourishing now and in the k.aden@
future? In what ways is civil society important for a healthy democracy? forumforthefuture.
org.
Responses should be no longer than 1,000 words and multimedia contributions are
encouraged. Contributions may be shared publicly on the online hub, so your submissions
will support the creation an open source bank of research into the future of civil society.
All submissions received will be reviewed by the Inquiry panel members and a synthesis
will be shared on this online hub as appropriate. We may have an additional call for
evidence in Jan 2018 depending on initial submissions.

Research Report Civil Society Futures 37


A
theme of this report is that the market has encroached on other domains, making alternatives appear
unattainable and requiring public and voluntary sectors to adapt to its logic. This has brought renewed
attention to the concept of social capital, important because of its positive contribution to a range of
well-being aspects relevant to policy makers and researchers, with known benefits to personal well-being, health,
reduced crime rates and increased economic growth (Siegler, 2014:2). It may be that stocks of social capital are
in short supply in areas where it is needed most, but this approach emphasises its role as a resource for achieving
wider ends and not as a product of real, lived relationships (Dinham, 2012). As McCabe argues:
Clubs, societies, village fetes etc all make significant contributions to social cohesion as well as to combating
isolation and promoting health and mental well-being. These are all government agendas (both now and in the
recent past) but this is not why these groups exist. They are there to meet basic human needs, not deliver on policy
agendas.
(McCabe, 2010:12)
A challenge for future civil society may be to maintain a focus on human needs: not just recognising the assets
within communities, important though this is (RSA, 2015), but developing peoples capacity to be and do (Sen,
2010, Nussbaum, 2003). For Sen the capability approach focuses on human life, shifting attention from the
means of living to the actual opportunities of living (2010:233). This is useful because it focuses on peoples needs
and aspirations and how these are shaped and constrained by often unjust background conditions (Nussbaum,
2003:34) of social and economic deprivation, enabling us to ask different questions about how to promote human
flourishing and the kind of society we want to live in.
This might mean challenging the idea that economic growth is the ultimate goal for societies, and market
mechanisms the most effective way of determining human affairs, and increasing the space for, and autonomy
of civil society and voluntary action. How do we promote ties based on moral obligations and relationships, not
contracts? These questions are particularly important at a time when both economic prosperity and environmental
sustainability are so fragile, and the need for fair and just solutions, both locally and globally, is so urgent.
As civil society has been delimited by socio-economic circumstances and re-framed by social policy so it has also
always found new ways to respond to social need as it arises. How it does so next is the focus of this Inquiry, which
is presented with a series of important questions that will stimulate our explorations and analysis:

38 Civil Society Futures Research Report


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