More than 50 charity umbrella bodies launch group aimed at lobbying government more effectively

The Houses of Parliament
The Houses of Parliament

More than 50 charity umbrella bodies have launched a new body aimed at increasing collaboration and engaging better with the government. 

The Civil Society Group, which has been launched today with 55 members including the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, the chief executives body Acevo, the Chartered Institute of Fundraising and the Small Charities Coalition, said it wanted to increase collaboration among members, improve efficiency and effectiveness and “clearly articulate shared priorities and views to government”. 

The group, which said it was open to be joined by other voluntary sector representative bodies, grew out of umbrella organisations working together to lobby the government for financial support in the early days of the pandemic last year. 

The new body has a strategic oversight group of 16 organisations that will set overarching priorities, including four seats that will be given to different charities on a revolving basis. 

The group will work alongside three sub-groups focused on objectives of influencing, policy development and sharing information.

Within this, it has identified priorities in areas including improving cross-Whitehall relationships, creating a framework for coordinated action across the charity sector on improving race equity and talking to the Charity Commission about sharing information on what is happening across civil society and at the regulator. 

A spokesperson for the group said it was informal and was not intended to represent or speak on behalf of the voluntary sector. 

The group is expected to operate on a collaborative basis and it was not anticipated that all members would agree on all issues, the spokesperson said. 

"The focus of the groups will be on finding and working towards the shared priorities as determined by the agreed strategic objective,” the spokesperson said. 

“We will always strive for as wide a consensus as possible – and we will always remain respectful of each other’s views – but there will be room for differentiation between members on a case by case basis.”

Should a vote be necessary on an issue or activity all members would have one vote each with a simple majority determining the outcome.

The spokesperson said the group had received some dedicated funding during the pandemic for specific projects but most of the resources had so far come from the participating organisations themselves. 

Administrative resources for the group are being provided by the NCVO and the Directory of Social Change but this is being kept under review. 

Vicky Browning, chief executive of Acevo and spokesperson for the Civil Society Group, said: “We’ve shown during the pandemic that by working together, charities and civil society were able to help hold society together by delivering vital services during incredibly difficult times.

"As we look towards the future, the work of charities, social enterprise and others will be vital in bringing about a fair and equitable recovery from the pandemic.

“The Civil Society Group will also allow civil society to speak clearly and directly to governments about our shared priorities and views and streamline and enhance our sector’s engagement with decision makers. 

“With our proven track record of success in responding to the Covid-19 pandemic – including securing £750m of support for charities in England – this group will help to ensure recognition and support for the work charities and others are doing at the centre of the recovery in communities across the country.”

Organisations interested in joining the Civil Society Group should contact collaboration@dsc.org.uk.  

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