Dialogue between charities and the government has crumbled, Children England chief warns

Official channels have crumbled between civil society and government meaning there is less transparency about how policy is made, the chief executive of Children England has said. 

Kathy Evans was speaking at an online conference run by the training and publishing charity the Directory of Social Change.

The event looked at how charities can navigate a changing policy sphere and determine the most efficient campaigning strategy and channels for any particular cause.

“We've seen a crumbling of what were long-established official channels for relationships between civil society and the government,” said Evans. 

“In particular, there were strategic partnerships between the government and the sector that both invested in and were viewed as conduits for hearing, sense-checking and alarm-sounding.”

Those channels have been crumbling away since 2010, said Evans, which has led to “incredibly poor” consultation and transparency around how policies are being made.

Even civil servants, who often facilitate discussions between MPs and the sector, have felt left out of key issues, she said. 

“So there’s work ongoing at the moment about trying to raise the alarm about the inadequacy of consultation and shortening time frames, such as not using the standard set for green paper periods,” said Evans. 

On the future of policy campaigning, she said that society was in such a “huge wholesale system challenge” that it needed to be talking about missions rather than thinking about small wins in big systems. 

“Mission campaigning means you don't, you don't have a specified time frame when you'll stop, and be ready to stick to it doggedly.

“The old set-piece campaign is useless,” said Evans. 

“We have to be able to move into a dialogue about morality that isn't partisan. But it is clear about the ethics, values and beliefs that motivate us to try to create movements, rather than campaign products.”

Evans said the challenge was not just changing people’s minds but more about giving them the opportunity to try, and not having linear ideas of a campaign’s success or failure. 

“Many people really just want to know that they had an opportunity to raise their voice about something, whether or not you end up succeeding and getting the change,'' she said.

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