Charity sector leader, Sir Stuart Etherington launches pamphlet ‘Voluntary Action: a way forward’ at Cass

Let communities own their assets in a revamp of civil society’s foundations says sector leader.

Sir Stuart, a long-time sector leader and commentator, has outlined his proposals in 'Voluntary Action: a way forward', a pamphlet published by Centre for Charity Effectiveness at Cass Business School.

Deploying billions of pounds lying idle in dormant bank accounts into the hands of local community-run foundations that underpin civil society will be a crucial way to secure its future for generations to come.

Sir Stuart Etherington, Visiting Professor of Voluntary Sector Management

In the pamphlet, Sir Stuart outlines his ideas about how the growth of community action and voluntary organisations can be encouraged against a background of burgeoning national debt, growing demand for already overstretched services and the difficulties in relying on taxation to provide extra money.

He proposes that the government use dormant assets to stimulate philanthropy, and permanently endow local charitable foundations. This new capital fund would provide a lasting basis for fuelling community action by massively increasing the assets and investment income of local charitable foundations, which could grant fund local projects. Sir Stuart also proposes using dormant assets to give communities the resources they need to take over local buildings or assets of community interest.

Other recommendations include:

  • Undertake a root and branch review of the social-investment industry so that it works better to support the charities and voluntary organisations that it was intended to make more sustainable
  • Futureproof and simplify the complex legal and regulatory framework for organisations that exist to benefit the public (charities, social enterprises and mutual), to take into account the numerous legal forms that are now available and to reduce the bureaucracy and inflexibility many now suffer from
  • The government should give a kick-start to volunteering, particularly for those who volunteer as charity trustees, by renewing its support for statutory time-off for volunteering

Sir Stuart Etherington commented:

“The issue is no longer about more or less state funding, versus more or less charitable giving or volunteering. It is a move towards something new: a society where the state and its citizens share the responsibility for supporting those who need it.

“We cannot simply rely on existing ways of doing things. The answer surely has to be a renaissance of personal responsibility and we should be in no doubt about the size of that change.

“Crudely put, civil society has to double in size or more. Clearly, in the short term this is impossible, but across several decades there is potential to do so.”

The pamphlet, which explores civil society’s institutional, financial and participation frameworks, is designed to stimulate discussion among policy makers and within the sector ahead of the wider debate on the future of civil society being considered by Julia Unwin, whose report will be out in 2019.

You can read the 'Voluntary Action: a way forward' here.