Only action will bring Civil Society Strategy to life, says Acevo chief

In a blog, Vicky Browning says the crucial question is whether the strategy is just 'warm words designed to placate or the beginning of a real shift'

Vicky Browning
Vicky Browning

The government must take swift action on the Civil Society Strategy if it is to be brought to life, according to Vicky Browning, chief executive of the charity leaders body Acevo.

In a blog published yesterday, Browning says that, despite the strategy’s "warm words", action is needed to strengthen the relationship between government and charities.

The strategy was published last month by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and was criticised for its relative lack of concrete policy announcements or firm commitments to provide significant funding for the sector.

"The strategy repeatedly defined the role of the government in civil society as that of a convenor," writes Browning. "The government must start convening imminently in order to create greater belief and trust in the strategy.

"Warm words may soothe, but they are not enough. It is action that will bring the strategy to life and it is action that we are ready for."

Browning adds that, though the strategy is "not crisis inducing", it "isn’t particularly inspiring either", and says it includes relatively few commitments to changing policy.

"The strategy could be big society 2.0 or it could be a genuine first step at reimagining the relationship between government and civil society, but at the moment no one can say with certainty which way it will go," says Browning.

"The crucial question, and the one that we don’t yet have an answer to, is whether the strategy is just warm words designed to placate, or the beginning of a real shift in the relationship between civil society and government."

Browning says investment is needed for charities working in areas hit by local authority cuts and for "supporting and growing local, user-led charities".

But Browning welcomes a change in tone from the government and its commitment to working more closely with the charity sector.

"The strategy feels relevant and the way in which the strengths, challenges and shortcomings of the sector are described is measured and astute," says Browning.

"However, it’s an indictment of the quality of previous government interventions that a document written by people who clearly respect and understand the role of civil society is seen as a refreshing change rather than a basic minimum."

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