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Ashleigh Milson

Campaigns and Public Affairs Manager

Charities Aid Foundation

GOVERNMENT ALL EARS OVER FUTURE OF CIVIL SOCIETY

27 February 2018

Today, the Minister for Civil Society, Tracey Crouch, has announced its call for evidence for the Civil Society Strategy. Laying the groundwork for the sector’s future relationship with government, this is a significant opportunity for charities to help mould the conversation and emphasise the important role it plays in society and policy-making, particularly after a challenging few weeks for the sector.

In reaching out to the sector and those who are interested in its welfare, the Minister has outlined her key priorities which focus around ‘people, place and partnership’. As well as these issues, there are also some much larger questions about how the sector functions which seem incredibly timely as we navigate some of the most challenging issues the sector has seen in recent years.

We haven’t seen such a sector-focused strategy from government since the Compact, and it is crucial that this strategy is built with the support of the sector. Its focus on ‘conversation’ rather than ‘consultation’ is significant and we hope that this represents the government’s plans for an ongoing conversation between government and civil society that lasts beyond this particular engagement.

WHO SHOULD BE INVOLVED?

It is important that wherever and however the conversation takes place, it is extended across the whole of government. The Minister has recognised the important role that charities play in bringing communities together and identifying ways the government can tackle the everyday challenges that many people are facing. Many of the questions asked throughout the call for evidence are relevant for other government departments where many charities have expertise that those departments should also be encouraged to listen. From the development of Foreign Policy in a post-Brexit Britain, to technological innovation and domestic reform, charities should form a key part of these conversations and our evidence and expertise should be increasingly valued.

WHAT'S IN THE DETAIL?

The focus of the consultation is to analyse the current experiences of civil society; what opportunities there are for the future; how government and organisations can help to realise these opportunities; and how government and civil society can work together to tackle the most pressing challenges society is facing. It is split into three sections based on the Minister’s theme of ‘people, place and partnership’:

People

This section looks at increasing participation in civil society and also includes a section on increasing participation in civil society amongst young people, and understanding how engaging in the sector can help reduce social barriers. On this theme, our Growing Giving Inquiry has highlighted a number of areas where participation in civil society can be encouraged, including through developing a Post Careers Advice Service (PCAS)  which guides those approaching retirement into volunteering roles  as a way of unlocking hugely valuable resource for civil society.

Partnership

This section asks questions about the best way that charities can work in partnership, both within the sector, and increasing involvement with those less likely to engage with us, including building strong corporate partnerships and local networks which strengthen our civic presence  

Place

This section looks at how people can be empowered at a local level to improve their environment, asking questions on how to build a common sense of shared identity which promotes civic participation, and how to build strong local public services that support communities. Our Giving for the City campaign has been advocating for the power of philanthropy at a local level and has long been highlighting the role of civil society in allowing local residents to develop a sense of ownership and responsibility over their local challenges and opportunities

WHAT'S NEXT?

Over the course of the consultation period, we’ll be blogging about the three different themes in more detail, giving our views on how this strategy can deliver for the charity sector and the people it represents.

You can find the full call for evidence here and get in touch with the Campaigns team by emailing campaigns@cafonline.org

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