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The Civil Society Strategy: What Does It Mean for the VCSE Sector?

The long anticipated Civil Society Strategy was published by the government in August 2018. Summery activities were put aside for a couple of hours as those across the VCSE sector settled in to read a strategy that was the first of its kind in fifteen years.


What is the Civil Society Strategy?

The strategy sets out how the government plans to work with civil society going forward to build thriving communities.

One of the main focuses of the strategy is the recognition that civil society can and should have a prominent role to play in tackling some of society’s biggest challenges. It encourages charities to speak up in public debate and exercise their ability to take a greater role in the delivery of public services.


What Does it Mean for Communities?

One main tenant within the strategy is the emphasis on community collaboration with the public sector. The strategy emphasises the notion that community organizations and individuals should be focusing more on the local needs of places. This will involve greater collaboration with the public sector, so that work can be taken cross-sector to enhance public services.

One initiative already in place that facilitates this is the Place Based Social Action Programme, funded by the Big Lottery Fund. The programme aims to improve collaboration between citizens, communities and public sector organisations to address local priorities through social action.

Take, for example, the work that Money A+E have been doing to improve financial exclusion. Money A+E were able to secure Inclusive Economy Partnership Funding to build a programme which successfully improved outcomes for BAME and hard to reach communities by providing money advice and educational services. With financial exclusion as one of the main societal challenges acknowledged by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), alongside improving the transition to work for young people and getting more people involved in volunteering, Money A+E were successful in bidding for funding which was able to enhance public impact and build a more inclusive society.


What Does it Mean for Charities?

The strategy pledges to build a stronger social sector which is at the core of civil society. The government outlined that they are keen to work with the social sector to build public trust and find new ways for charities to deliver their work.

One of the ways in which the government demonstrated this commitment was the pledging of £20 million from inactive charitable trusts to give to community foundations to deliver initiatives which provide public impact.

In addition, the strategy also outlined the commitment to broadening the range of funding opportunities for charity and community initiatives, including a revival of grant making.

There was also an emphasis on renewing the government’s commitment to the principles of the Compact, which governs the relationship between the government and the social sector. Charities and social enterprises will be encouraged to become more involved in co-constructing solutions to societal challenges.

The strategy presents a great opportunity for the social sector to access funding and become more involved in public projects which can tackle some of the biggest issues faced in society today.


What Does it Mean for Local Authorities?

Many public services were first created outside of the public sector, often originating from the social sector – take, for example, the NHS or the Jobcentre Plus. The potential is there – it’s down to local government and the social sector to harness it.

The strategy recognizes this potential and sets out initiatives which aim to encourage it to be fulfilled. One of the big pledges in the strategy is the commitment to collaborative commissioning. This means that local stakeholders will be involved in commissioning services in the future and that all resources of a community, including public funding, will be utilized to tackle a community’s challenges. Large corporations will no longer automatically be assumed to be commissioned to deliver public services and there will be increased pressure on local authorities to ensure that they are achieving the maximum social value when they choose who to commission public contracts out to. Increasingly, local authorities will be expected to work closely alongside the social sector to commission services.


There is a wealth of opportunity provided by the Civil Society Strategy for the social sector and local government to work in collaboration to ensure that they are providing the highest quality public services which deliver maximum social impact.


To hear more about the opportunities presented by the strategy and how to access them, from the DCMS, Social Enterprise UK, NCVO and best practice case studies, join us at our Effectively Implementing the Civil Society Strategy Forum on Wednesday 19 June.


This article was written by Becky Clark.