The UK government has outlined its vision to empower and invest in society in the first civil society strategy in 15 years – and puts tech-for-good digital innovation at the heart of efforts to boost participation and charity growth. Julian Blake reports.
The first civil society strategy in 15 years, published on Wednesday, will “build stronger communities by bringing together businesses, charities and the public sector”, the government has pledged – highlighting “new ways to harness the power of digital and technology for public good”.
The 122-page strategy proposes reforms across the public and private sectors to build a fairer society, and pledges to put “people, communities and charitable organisations…at the centre of decision making”.
The strategy follows on from last year’s industrial strategy, and complements plans to grow Britain’s economy and boost productivity, says the government, by building “a more connected society”, where everyone can play their part in a fairer, healthier and more prosperous country.
A statement issued with the strategy defines civil society as “organisations and individuals working to create social value, enriching lives and building a fairer society for all”.
Minister for sport and civil society Tracey Crouch said the strategy would focus on “five key foundations of social value”: people, places and the public, private and social sectors.
The strategy sets out measures (set out below) designed to boost digital services and skills of charities and the public sector, as well as digital innovations to boost access to finance.
Tech for good is identified as one of the strategy’s 15 key missions. “The government will explore what more can be done to harness the power of technology in addressing complex social issues, such as tackling loneliness, healthy ageing, online safety, and digital inclusion,” it says.
The strategy highlights the work of the Centre for Acceleration of Social Technology (CAST) in supporting charities and social enterprises – including Age UK and Breast Cancer Care – and says the government will work with CAST and others “to explore how best to build a responsive, resilient, and agile social sector”.
Elsewhere in the strategy, a new ‘innovation in democracy’ pilot scheme in six regions will “test creative ways for people to take a more direct role in decisions affecting their local area”, including citizens’ juries. It suggests aiding mass participation in decision-making on community issues “via an online poll or app”.
Digital secretary Jeremy Wright (pictured) said: “Our plans stand side by side with the industrial strategy, supporting its drive to grow the economy, while creating an environment where people and communities are at the heart of decision-making. These ambitious plans will harness the expertise of volunteers, charities and business to help people take a more active part in their local areas.”
Well deserved recognition of the UK #TechForGood movement in the #CivilSocietyStrategy & its role in putting social purpose at the heart of the digital revolution. We very much look forward to continuing to work with brilliant partners to bring more #nonprofits into the community
— Dan Sutch (@dansutch) August 9, 2018
Civil society strategy – digital measures
The strategy was formed following an open consultation and has been developed across government.
Funding for for disadvantaged young people (£90m) and financial exclusion (£55m) will come from a total pot of up to £330m from dormant bank and building society accounts. The government says the pot will be used to help the homeless, disadvantaged young people, local charities and other good causes in the UK over the next four years.