Government is consulting on a new Civil Society Strategy. Led by the Department for Digital Culture Media and Sport (DCMS), this strategy seeks to set the direction for government policy relating to our sector for years to come.
Why is the Civil Society Strategy important?
It is easy to be sceptical that a strategy alone will not be able to achieve the scale of change we know we need (particularly when DCMS are quick to emphasise the absence of any new funding commitments).
Yet there is undoubtedly a real need to drive forward a coherent policy agenda for government’s role in relation to civil society.
The government intends that this strategy will articulate the long-term vision for how government and civil society work together to tackle some of the big issues facing our country. The aim is that it will be embedded across government departments.
This consultation is therefore a key opportunity for our sector to shape that vision, and to show what action is needed to strengthen and support a flourishing civil society.
The government have called for us to come up with ‘bold ideas’ and we need to rise to that challenge.
What are the themes for the Civil Society Strategy consultation?
The core part of the consultation document is split into three themes:
• People: looks at how people are the foundation of civil society through social action, including volunteering, charitable giving, running organisations, and community ownership.
• Partnership: focuses on the potential for greater partnership between civil society, private and public sectors, including in funding and financing and in public service innovation.
• Place: examines community cohesion and belonging, localism and devolution, and public service commissioning.
What we want from the Civil Society Strategy
We will be calling on government to use the Civil Society Strategy to harness and strengthen the power of community.
Our response will demonstrate how community organisations transform lives and build a fairer society.
We will be arguing that the strategy needs to:
- Have an ambitious but realistic set of actions which makes a positive difference to the work of our members, and avoids generalities and warm words
- Provide a clear statement of government support for community organisations and a framework for government activity to create the right conditions for our members to thrive
- Include real support to back up the strategy through new funding streams and changes in taxation, regulation and legislation where necessary
Our response to the strategy will focus on three key priority areas:
1. Public service commissioning
Using the evidence from our Keep it Local work we will demonstrate how commissioning community organisations can create better services, save money and build a fairer, more resilient local economy.
Building on our report from the Commission on the Future of Localism, we will show how we need a localism agenda which makes the case that power starts with people.
We need to build participation by strengthening our community institutions, and devolving real tangible power and resources to communities.
3. Using the Dormant Assets fund to strengthen community ownership
The Dormant Assets Commission last year identified approximately £2 billion worth of dormant stocks, shares and financial products, which could be used for good causes.
This fund could provide the bedrock to the Civil Society Strategy. It is a vital opportunity to invest strategically in our civil society to help build active, thriving and resilient local communities.
One way the government could invest this funding is through a community assets investment plan. This would be used to increase community ownership of local land and buildings, generating social and economic value for our neighbourhoods and strengthening our community sector.
Have your say in the consultation
The consultation is open until the 22 May. You can have your say through an online survey.
The government have also produced a toolkit which you can use if you are planning on hosting any conversations with your own networks about the strategy.
Our policy work is led by our members, and we would love to hear from you as we put together our response.
Do get in touch with Locality’s policy manager at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 0207 336 9440, if you would like to feed into our response or would like support in your submission.
This blog was written by Tony Armstrong, CEO, Locality.