Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, has called on the government to put a framework in place that will allow the big society ideas to become reality.
Speaking at a conference in London yesterday, he said that if the government wanted to sector to "step up to the plate" it needed to ensure that a framework for understanding the big society was in place, alongside the right kinds of public policies to make it work.
He said that if the big society was presented to the public as simply a response to a reduction in government spending it would increase people's cynicism about the idea.
"Unless a framework is in place, there is the potential for quite chaotic developments to take place," he said.
Etherington also said the sector faced "the greatest challenge for generations" and warned charities should not be too dependent on one type of fundraising.
Charities must instead think about developing a wide variety of income sources, he claimed, even though he understood this could have major technical and managerial implications for many charities.
But Etherington added that there was some cause for optimism in the face of the economic turbulence, saying it was a good opportunity for change.