Become more reliant on funds from the public, chair of Civil Society Futures tells sector

Julia Unwin, chair of the two-year inquiry into civil society, says in The Times that this would make charities more accountable to 'the many'

Julia Unwin
Julia Unwin

< This story has been amended; see final paragraph

Charities should consider becoming more reliant on funding from the public in order to make them more accountable to "the many", according to the head of an inquiry into the future of the sector.

Julia Unwin, chair of Civil Society Futures, a two-year inquiry into the future of civil society funded by the Baring Foundation, has written in The Times newspaper before giving a speech at the National Council for Voluntary Organisations’ annual conference in London this morning.

In the column, Unwin, the former chief executive of the research and policy charity the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, says trust in charities has collapsed over the past year.

"Trust has to be earned and re-earned," she writes. "Civil society has always had to reinvent itself as times change."

She cites recent "scandals" in the sector, such as the collapse of Kids Company and the fundraising practices highlighted by the Olive Cooke case.

Unwin says: "For civil society to rebuild public trust, we must embrace the greater levels of accountability expected by the modern world.

"That means thinking carefully about how our members and those who benefit from the services we provide can take more ownership of our organisations.

"It means considering how to use methods such as crowdfunding to make us more reliant on the many, and less reliant on the grant-makers and the state."

Civil Society Futures has been launched officially today and opened an online hub inviting people in the sector to get involved in the project.

It has posted a short questionnaire on its website asking people what their expectations are for the voluntary sector over the next 10 years, including their biggest hopes and fears for the sector.

< This story originally said that charities should become more reliant on public funds, but this has been changed to say funding from the public.

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