New review to examine voluntary sector role in coronavirus recovery effort

The third sector think tank Pro Bono Economics is launching a commission to assess civic society’s role in Britain’s recovery from the coronavirus.

The Law Family Commission on Civil Society was announced over the weekend by Lord Gus O’Donnell, chair of Pro Bono Economics and a former head of the UK Civil Service, and Andy Haldane, co-founder of PBE and chief economist at the Bank of England. 

The pair hope the inclusive and evidence-led inquiry will generate ideas into how civil society could deliver on its potential in the 2020s.  

O’Donnell will chair the commission and will aim to appoint about another 15 commissioners that would draw on the expertise of leaders across politics, business, charity, philanthropy and academy. 

It will undertake new research into how to get the private sector, public sector and social sector firing on all cylinders to build truly inclusive growth. 

One element of the work will be to estimate the size and importance of volunteering in the economy and the lack of the inclusion of volunteering in gross domestic product, because the absence of monetary transactions involved often leave it ignored in public debate.

In June, Prime Minister Boris Johnson asked Danny Kruger, the Conservative MP for Devizes, to carry out his own review into the sector's role in the Covid-19 recovery.

Matt Whittaker, chief executive of Pro Bono Economics, said: “The UK is rightly proud of its civil society, and the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the crucial role our volunteers, charities, community groups and social enterprises play. The sector has huge amounts of potential to change lives and improve wellbeing in the country.”

Whittaker said that despite the excellent work charity leaders did with the resources they had, there were systemic challenges in place that prevented the sector fulfilling its potential. 

Public policy tended to focus on human, financial and physical capital before social capital, he said. 

“The government rightly wants to ‘level up’ left-behind areas and to 'build back better',” he said. 

“Doing that will require a focus not just on economic growth but on community cohesion, equality of opportunity and equity of outcome.

"To truly achieve that vision, civil society will need to be at the heart of what we do as a country – but it will also need to be given the right tools and environment to fulfil its potential.”

The commission, which is expected to run for two years, is being funded by the Law Family Foundation. A formal launch is due to take place in the autumn. 

For updates and information on how to get involved, click here.

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