The release of the Civil Society Strategy has caught many by surprise, coming during the middle of summer when parliament is in recess.
However, figures from the sector have been quick to respond to the 123-page document that laid out the government’s plan on how it will "work with and for civil society in the long-term to create a country that works for everyone".
Andrew O’Brien, director of external affairs at Social Enterprise UK, called the strategy a "good springboard" for social enterprise as well as demonstrating "bold ambition" from the government, although he also described it as "vague" and "leaving a lot to follow up".
Initial reactions to @DCMS Civil Society Strategy:— Andrew O'Brien (@SEUK_OBrien) August 9, 2018
1) It is a good springboard for #socent including the creation of a new forum to coordinate government relations with the sector, a new responsible business leadership group and more support for mutuals 1/?
Danny Kruger, adviser to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, which produced the strategy, offered a lengthy Twitter thread soon after the report launch, which was described by Karl Wilding, director of public policy and volunteering at the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, as being better than the original document.
A thread on the government’s Civil Society Strategy, which we’re publishing today. This is the successor to the Industrial Strategy: a comprehensive vision for how we will work with businesses and communities to make a fairer, stronger, bigger society... Here’s what it says: 1/13— Danny Kruger (@danny__kruger) August 9, 2018
#CivilSocietyStrategy— Karl Wilding (@karlwilding) August 9, 2018
If I may, this thread from @danny__kruger explains and outlines the strategy bit of the #CivilSocietyStrategy better than the published document.
The point re growing communities' financial & social capital is critical. This is the #CivilSocietyStrategy. https://t.co/yHNzaaiMD1
In conclusion, Kruger said: "The Civil Society Strategy is the start not end of a process, and part of a conversation among equals. We want to work with others to strengthen the voluntary sector, put social purpose at the heart of business, and transform public services. Please join us!"
Other figures from the sector were quick to add their views on the report, with some expressing surprise at the timing of the launch. Elizabeth Chamberlain, head of public policy and services at NCVO, wrote: "With parliament in recess and right in the middle of the summer holidays, it seems an odd time to launch something that will inform government’s relationship with civil society for the next decade.
"I doubt there are many holidaymakers who will want to use their data allowance to download a document that is over 120 pages long."
Meanwhile, Paul Streets, chief executive of the Lloyds Bank Foundation, welcomed the report but added that there was a need to "focus on acute issue facing marginalised people and places".
CSS landed @DCMS Welcome tone, commitment to 'voice', recog of probs w contracts & need for grants. But whilst breadth & scope good, need to focus on acute issues facing marginalised people & places to target more dormant assets & shared prosperity fund.https://t.co/lRSwfcoqMG— Paul Streets (@PaulStreets_) August 9, 2018
Co-Operatives UK also focused on local needs in their early response:
Civil Society Strategy published. We wanted investment in grassroots community action (Tick), plans for community economic development (Tick) & a focus on digital tech for social action (Tick). Still reading but so far so good for #coops policy agenda! https://t.co/tKes7AO18R pic.twitter.com/foknot7Prw— Co-operatives UK (@CooperativesUK) August 9, 2018
As the morning progressed and others had an opportunity to read the report in more detail, more overt criticism began to appear with some who thought the strategy uncomfortably familiar:
It's back! The "Big society" from the "first Civil Society Strategy" in 15 years. Otherwise known as "now Local Govt has been trashed, it's up to the voluntary sector to feed the hungry, care for the elderly and house the homeless" https://t.co/zffgnF6KzM— Frances Haigh (@Frances_Haigh) August 9, 2018
I'm not aware of anyone who was eagerly awaiting the publication of the new civil society strategy but this presentation of the reheated leftovers of 'Big Society' is just lame— John Hannen (@GMCVOJohn) August 9, 2018
I don't even think the spending announcements are new either https://t.co/laOaZglrLJ
While others critiqued the strategy in the context of previous government policies:
Gov "recognises the transformational impact that youth services and trained youth workers can have, esp. for young people facing multiple barriers or disadvantage" (Civil Society Strategy, just out). Shame their cuts decimated #youthwork and led to youth work course closures.— Tania de St Croix (@tania_dsc) August 9, 2018
Lots of gentle applause for the civil society strategy from sector reps. Never have so many been so grateful for so little! My greatest frustration? The ongoing conflation between charity and #socent. Government recognition & support for #socent ? Scotland still leads the way.— Peter Holbrook (@peteholbrook) August 9, 2018
Others just saw a long day and weekend ahead:
Attempting to precis 123 pages of government strategy on civil society this morning is going to require even more than the usual amount of coffee I suspect.— Rhodri Davies ???? (@Rhodri_H_Davies) August 9, 2018
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with others deciding to take their time to digest the information before offering their views:
Government has published its Civil Society Strategy - full analysis and breakdown of what this means for groups in Barking and Dagenham in Monday's newsletter https://t.co/LhISJ5SQzN …— BDCVS (@BD_CVS) August 9, 2018
Sign here https://t.co/49RsZWaZyb pic.twitter.com/U1RHSHpwvT