Charities can bind society, says NCVO chief

Umbrella body launches new programme of work to 'diffuse tensions' caused by the recession

The voluntary sector will help bridge gulfs across communities as social tensions rise during the recession, NCVO chief executive Stuart Etherington told delegates at his organisation's annual conference yesterday.

Launching the new Civil Society Framework for Action, a programme of work to tackle society's ills developed with a range of bodies including the TUC, the Local Government Association and the National Housing Federation, Etherington said communities could face fragmentation, rising tensions and even public disorder as the recession deepened.

But voluntary organisations, particularly those that brought different people together, such as community groups, could help to halt these processes, he said.

"We want to encourage organisations that provide bridging social capital between communities so that ultimately we can diffuse tensions that could develop," he said.

The CSFA includes work on community cohesion, individual and community wellbeing, financial security and climate change.

"The recession demonstrates that the conventional solutions do not always work," said Etherington. "Look to the market or the state and you will see their limitations: the market limited by greed; the state by patronage. This is why we need to develop a new approach, one that is driven by the values and methods of our sector and which recognises the need for people to be part of something greater and to feel that what they do matters."

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