Voluntary sector leaders call for a change in direction

Press release

10 November 2014

The voluntary sector must come together to create a new direction, according to sector leaders writing in a collection of essays, published today by Civil Exchange.

Making Good: the Future of the Voluntary Sector brings together the different views of over 30 senior figures from the voluntary sector. Looking across the essays, Civil Exchange says they point to a new direction for the sector, if it is to avoid losing its independent identity and voice, including:

  • Protecting their right to campaign and using their voice to shape, not just deliver, better public services.
  • Focusing on preventing social problems, rather than alleviating them – with the aim of putting themselves out of business.
  • Building the capacity of the people they work with so they can be agents of change rather than recipients of charity.
  • Thinking ‘local first’ because it can be easier to create lasting change through local connections, resisting market-driven pressures for charities to become larger through government contracts.
  • Emphasising that voluntary organisations generate social value that cannot be described in financial terms and so cannot be harnessed only through price-driven contracting.
  • Listening to those they serve, never simply responding to the agenda of those with more power.

Many of the essays also seek a shift in culture from the public sector and a change in the way it works with the voluntary sector in order to generate more genuine social value.

Caroline Slocock from Civil Exchange comments:

“There are different perspectives but, taken as a whole, this is a collective and urgent call for a change of direction in how both the state and the voluntary sector work.

“These leaders would like the voluntary sector to play to its strengths. That means not just picking up the pieces as the state cuts back services, competing for contracts for public services that are not meeting needs and treating those it helps as dependents – but focusing on prevention, working with others and raising its independent voice to achieve positive change and shape better public services.

“For the public sector, there’s a challenge to the view that markets and competition drive better performance and that bigger organisations are best and a call on the public sector to value, reward and genuinely respect the distinctive social value created through voluntary activity, particularly in small locally based organisations.”

Making Good: the Future of the Voluntary Sector aims to shape discussions about the future of the sector as it responds to growing debate about the role of charities.

The future of the sector will be debated this evening at an event which brings together many of the contributors.

Paul Farmer, CEO of Mind, who will be speaking at that debate, comments:

“The sector will adapt and develop to meet the needs of the beneficiaries we serve and take its place as a credible yet different alternative to the public and private sectors. The future will be more collaborative across the sector, finding common cause, influencing policy, raising the ambition for our society.”

Kathy Evans, CEO of Children England, who will also be speaking at this debate, comments:

“We must urgently move beyond price-driven contracting, stop fighting short term battles for our separate organisational interests, and pool our resources to build sustainable community services. If we simply accept that the test of our worth is to do whatever it takes to survive in a financial Hunger Games, we sell ourselves short and devalue our currency.”

The idea for the essays came from the Panel on the Independence of the Voluntary Sector, which has highlighted serious threats to independence in its reports and has called for greater consensus about what is distinctive and important about an independent voluntary sector in order to underpin a ‘new settlement’ between the sector and its stakeholders.


  1. Making Good: the Future of the Voluntary Sector will be launched at a seminar at the Baring Foundation on Monday 10 November by Civil Exchange. For an advance copy, further details or interviews, contact Leo Barasi: 020 7793 4036 / 07830 819121 / leo@dhacommunications.co.uk.
  1. The contributors include:
  • Sir Stephen Bubb, ACEVO
  • Dan Corry, NPC
  • Professor Nicholas Deakin, Panel on the Independence of the Voluntary Sector
  • Sir John Elvidge, The Carnegie UK Trust
  • Kathy Evans, Children England
  • Paul Farmer, Mind
  • Danny Kruger, Only Connect
  • Sir Bert Massie, Panel on the Independence of the Voluntary Sector
  • Chris Mould, the Trussell Trust
  • Cathy Pharoah, Cass Business School
  • David Robinson, Community Links
  • Judy Robinson, Involve Yorkshire & Humber
  • Karl Wilding, NCVO
  1. The essays are published by Civil Exchange with support from the Baring Foundation. The final report of the Panel on the Independence of the Voluntary Sector will be published in January 2015.