There will be fewer charities in the future, former chief predicts

Ex-Barnardo’s boss says the sector will become smaller as the next generation drives new ideas

Javed Khan
Javed Khan

Javed Khan, the former chief executive of Barnardo’s, says the charity sector is likely to shrink and “less is going to mean more” in the years ahead.

Khan, who stepped down last July after seven years at the top of the children’s charity, said the future of the sector will see “less organisations, less people in them, less buildings, but greater impact and greater reach, because they are just going to be doing it in different ways”.

In a talk recorded to celebrate the 20th anniversary of charity think tank NPC, Khan added: “I think there is going to be a big shift in thinking about why charities exist and what they are prepared to take on, and it is going to be very different from a traditional view of what a charity is meant to be about. 

“Now some would call this sacrilege, [but] I think it is going to be progress and something that we should embrace.”

He also argued that the future will hold “a significant opportunity for the sector, if it wishes to take it, in the ability to run statutory services.

“In the years to come charities will have the chance to run those services directly, whether they are under the auspices of local government or separate to it, or some kind of arms-length arrangement”, he said in reference to children’s services.

Charities such as Shelter and Crisis could add “great value” to housing services that have traditionally fallen within the remit of local governments, Khan said.

He also suggested that diversity will be critical, and will apply to the diversity of the sector’s workforce as well as its “practice and cultural intelligence”. 

The sector will be “driven by younger people and will connect with communities in ways we have not discovered yet”, he said, referring to new social media platforms. 

Khan emphasised the need to “develop a very high degree of cultural competence” in the sector, which he said would not be limited to ethnic identity but would relate to “much more subtle cultural nuances that exist in our communities” and will make it “much more difficult to pigeonhole people into traditional ethnicities”. 

Such changes would challenge the traditional workforce in the sector, he said, which he described as “still pretty monocultural, still pretty middle class and largely female”.

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