Thursday 20 May 2010


As I've blogged before, it's extremely reassuring to see such strong and firm affirmation of the role of the third sector in delivering social change reiterated in the Government's plans for Big Society.

But we must ask the question if "society" is to become bigger, then whose job is it to make that happen and define its characteristics. Ours in the sector? Or Government? Or indeed a partnership of us both?

There is an inherent contradiction in the idea that the State's role should be reduced and but it then tells us how we are to be organised.

A fascinating snip it from the PM speech at the launch of Big Society. He said,

"it’s going to be the voluntary sector, social enterprises (no longer to be called ‘the third sector’, from now on: that phrase is to be abolished). The office of the voluntary sector and social enterprise sector will be a bigger part of government than ever.”

Perhaps he was being jocular when he said the phrase "third sector" is "now to be abolished". A small point. After all who really cares what we are called. As I said in my recent blog, "a rose by any name would smell as sweet". But do we accept that Government tells us what we are allowed to call ourselves?

So as part of the assertion of our right to define ourselves and what we want from Big Society I am calling a roundtable of key members, experts and think tanks next week. I shall make a speech on what ACEVO and third sector CEOs want to see from all this. More on this soon.

Of course we must work in partnership with Government. It is what CEOs in our sector do. We are the ultimate pragmatists. But on equal terms if we are to build a Bigger Society. Indeed difficult to see how it will happen otherwise. And I hope the meeting next week will help us make a constructive contribution to this ongoing and important aspect of new Government policy. I know that the new PM is passionate about how our sector should grow. Let's ensure it is done in a way that our non profit, third sector, social economy, civil society, NGO, voluntary and community, charity and social enterprise sector is put in the driving seat!

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