Wednesday 7 July 2010

Big Society and Europe; Tonic still wanted

Is Big Society bigger than just the UK? The EU offers significant potential for the growth of civil society within the UK as well as across Europe. That potential is not realised.

It is one of the reasons we established Euclid, our European third sector leaders network. There is much to learn as leaders from our colleague Chief Executives in Europe. But we can be very insular us English! Not, of course, that this would mean me giving up wearing my Panama hat as I wander Anatolia!! Or my continuing search for Tonic water!

There is also an interesting angle for the new Government. It could champion The Big Society idea across an overly bureaucratic, statist EU and enable European civil society organisations to flourish.

This also offers the UK Government a chance to propose a significant alternative to the process - based nature of the EU - an alternative that builds on a key Coalition theme. Europe is one of the fault lines between the Tories and the Liberals so the notion of putting civil society more close to the role of the EU has much to commend it.
The EU spends £42 billion per year (roughly a third of its budget) on civil society organisations across the world. £1.1 billion is spent yearly on the UK in structural funding alone (not including other funding streams managed directly in Brussels or regional funds). The scale of these figures demonstrates significant opportunities in Europe for civil society organisations operating within the UK or globally. The problem is access.
Compared to the UK Government, the EU has little significant policy towards civil society. As a result much funding that could go to civil society organisations does not. Funding regulations prevent many civil society organisations from accessing finance, growth strategies do not include social enterprise and EU procurement rules create barriers (in many cases unrecognised by commissioners) to service delivery by civil society. Furthermore, UK civil society organisations are weaker than their continental counterparts at accessing EU funds.

Strategically, the UK Government has an opportunity to put civil society at the heart of the EU’s strategy for the future.

OCS also has an opportunity to support UK civil society organisations in accessing EU funding at a time of domestic spending restraint.

Its an interesting notion. It would certainly enable the Government to position itself better; away from the silly anti-Europeanism of some of the Tory backbenches and towards a more positive and forward looking stance.

So expect the Big Hague speech on Euro Big Soc. You read it here first!

And the journey continues. Now on the southern coast of Turkey, the ancient coastal city of Alanya; an important city of the Roman Empire. Hadrian was here and left a triumphal arch. As he did. And good old St Nick is just up the road. That is St Nicholas of Myra, the patron of Christmas giving. His reliquary is in the museum, though the Italians nicked the bones. Apart from that, little culture this time. Just three days on the beach. Yes, surprisingly I intend to relax. Finding Tonic would be good. But I intend to bend my ingenuity to the task today. The USS Eisenhower is in town and somehow this must mean supplies somewhere... Ill let you know - I realise you are worrying!

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