All the not so young punks
The Civil Society Futures report, produced by an independent panel chaired by Julia Unwin, has just been published. The report is the work of an inquiry into the future of civil society and aims to give the sector the tools it needs to address and find solutions to challenges facing society.
The paper describes the vital role that civil society has in addressing the complex and urgent issues of our time and in “reviving our dented democracy”. Today it is civil society that organises to welcome refugees, to open food banks, to conserve our precious wildlife, to show that black lives matter, to fight for internet freedoms.
It points out that civil society is indispensable “Neither the market nor the state alone can rethread our social fabric, rebuild our democracy and respond to the challenges of a rapidly changing age. We must be at the heart of it. We must lead the way”
However, it also challenges us, concluding that “ civil society will not be able to do this without changing itself”. Indeed, the report warns that, if we do not change, we risk becoming irrelevant. It calls for a change in our culture & practices, including greater collaboration & sharing, and requires us to show our impact by measures other than size & turnover.
The report provides a toolkit to address this mammoth task which could be summarized as: we must respond to people’s desire for power, be accountable, connect and build trust. Forming the acronym PACT…
- Power: consciously shifting power in big ways, sharing more decision-making and control, being a model for the rest of society and doing whatever is needed so that everyone can play a full part in the things which matter to them.
- Accountability: holding ourselves accountable first and foremost to the communities and people we exist to serve, revolutionising our approach – including being more accountable to each other and to future generations.
- Connection: broadening and deepening our connections with people and communities – especially when it’s hardest – for this is the heart of civil society’s purpose, bridging the frequent divides that span our society and investing in a new social infrastructure for civil society.
- Trust: devoting the time and resources necessary to building trust – our core currency and foundation – earning trust by staying true to our values and standing up for them, and trusting others with vital decisions that affect them.
I was hooked when I read a comment in the report that…
(Which I took to mean, people doing things for themselves.)
It is a challenging report, calling on us all to focus outside our own communities or our own charitable/ social purpose to address the ills of our time. (Brexit is not mentioned but its implications and the conditions that created it seem writ large in its thinking). It is also implicitly critical of a sector that responds too much to funders and not enough to beneficiaries; that has not really embraced digital tools to have greater & more efficient reach; that competes more than collaborates; that has not sufficiently adapted its models of working with volunteers and that has at times behaved imperiously towards beneficiaries rather than on equal terms.
The report also calls on the public sector to change its contracting practices to reflect the PACT through co-production, social value clauses, longer term investment (reflecting the Government’s recent Civil Society Strategy) and fully costing services.
I think we are well equipped to respond to this report at Action Hampshire for the following reasons:
- The ethos behind everything that we do is to help people to do things for themselves
- We regularly gather intelligence from civil society
- As a School for Social Entrepreneurs we work with disruptors & challengers who see different ways to solve problems.
- We do not compete with our members and use networks & digital tools to encourage self-help and develop collective voices.
What we could do better: –
- Share decision-making and control beyond our staff and trustees.
- Consider how we can genuinely shift power in a way that isn’t tokenistic.
- Use digital technology to make our services more efficient
It seems to me that the really valuable thing about this report is that it reminds us of the things that we should be doing anyway to be true to our values. We are not complacent but I believe that we have the building blocks in place to demonstrate the PACT way of working – do you??
Blog by Sue Dovey, CEO
Images: by Zidney, Adrien Coquet, Leonardo Schneider, Max Hancock and Maxim Kulikov