Civil Society Futures

Civil Society Futures is a national conversation about how English civil society can flourish in a fast changing world.

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Through community events, academic research and online debate, Civil Society Futures will create a space for a much needed conversation among those involved in all forms of civic action – from informal networks to vast charities, Facebook groups to faith groups. Considering how both the nature of civil society and the context it exists in are changing fast, we will investigate how to maximise the positive effects of civic action and provide a guide to how to release its potential to drive positive change.

Civil society is all of us. When we act not for profit nor because the law requires us to, but out of love or anger or creativity, or principle, we are civil society. When we bring together our friends or colleagues or neighbours to have fun or to defend our rights or to look after each other, we are civil society. Whether we organise through informal friendship networks, Facebook groups, community events and protests; or formal committees, charities, faiths and trade unions, whether we block runways or co-ordinate coffee mornings, sweat round charity runs or make music for fun; when we organise ourselves outside the market and the state, we are all civil society.

This Inquiry will be a two-year exploration by English civil society into its future.

The conversation will be guided by an independent panel of people with perspectives ranging from theatre making in South Wales to tech investment in Gaza, local government in the North of England to the world’s alliance of civil society organisations. It will be chaired by Julia Unwin, the former chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, and is made up of Asif Afridi, Sarah Gordon, Bert Massie, Danny Sriskandarajah, Rhiannon White, Carolyn Wilkins, Steve Wyler, Debu Purkayastha.

This panel will be powered by a collaboration of four unique organisations. Citizens’ UK has its roots in communities across England. Goldsmiths (including the Faiths and Civil Society Unit and the Department for Media, Communications and Cultural Studies) brings skills in academic research, looking at the changing trends in civil society. openDemocracy facilitates wide ranging discussion about the powerful institutions in our society. And Forum for the Future brings years of experience of helping people figure out how the world is changing and how best to respond.

The Inquiry has been funded by Baring Foundation, Esmee Fairbairn, Barrow Cadbury, Paul Hamlyn, Lloyds Bank Foundation, City Bridge Trust, Lankelly Chase and Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. Research support has also been provided by NCVO.

Read more on the Civil Society Futures website.