Analysis: The sector awaits the latest ideas for capacity-building

Government proposals due in spring, but it has already ruled out a successor to Capacitybuilders.

Although Capacitybuilders will close in just two months, ministers have yet to reveal any detailed new plans for infrastructure.

The Cabinet Office, however, did provide some clues in its consultation document Supporting a Stronger Civil Society, which was published in October.

The document discusses "potential priorities", which include asking private and public organisations to help traditional infrastructure providers, such as councils for voluntary service, and making greater use of the internet to disseminate skills and information.

But the document says more about what won't happen than what will by explicitly rejecting the idea of establishing a successor to Capacitybuilders to manage the projects that do emerge.

"We want to end top-down initiatives that filter spending through multiple layers," says Nick Hurd, the Minister for Civil Society, in the introduction. The government will publish proposals in the spring.

Meanwhile Capacitybuilders has been talking to the Office for Civil Society about continuing its Improving Support website, which contains infrastructure resources for consortia, after it closes. Local infrastructure group Navca is interested in running it.

Stephen Dunmore, chair of Capacitybuilders, says: "I hope the government will recognise that if civil society is to engage with the big society and localism, then there will need to be continuous support for building and maintaining its capacity." Some of the lead organisations for the nine national support services, which received £16.8m over three years from Capacitybuilders, hope to continue their work, albeit at reduced levels.

The NCVO is the lead body for campaigning and advocacy, leadership and governance, and responding to social change. Loss of funding means it is shedding 30 jobs, but Ben Kernighan, its deputy chief executive, says it would continue to provide help in these areas.

The other lead bodies are Bassac (collaboration and partnership), Acevo (income generation), the Women's Resource Centre (equalities and diversity), Charities Evaluation Services (performance management), Volunteering England (modernising volunteering) and the Media Trust (marketing and communications).

Ben Hughes, chief executive of Bassac, which merged with the Development Trusts Association while leading on collaboration, said it would use the skills it acquired to provide consultancy services.

But some organisations wonder if the government really 'gets' infrastructure. In its consultation response, the Directory of Social Change said the document demonstrated "insufficient understanding both of the support needs of civil society and of recent and ongoing work undertaken to support those needs".

"The Big Lottery Fund has the reach and respect to do this kind of work. It has experience of funding and of supporting infrastructure through its Basis programme" - Bill Freeman Director of consultancy services, Navca

"Capacity-building should move towards something more tailored and focused - for instance, adding personal budgets for infrastructure to contracts" - Peter Kyle Deputy chief executive, Acevo

"We need to start from the perspective of community organisations and ensure they can access support but also define and shape it" - Dorothy Newton Author of the report The Infrastructure Support Services Needed by Community Organisations in London

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