Today’s RADAR takes in Big Society’s first birthday, a piece by Scope’s Head of Philanthropy and Social Investment on ‘Lending as a form of giving’, and an NPC article on the vulnerability of Violence Against Women organisations.
Yesterday marked one year since David Cameron’s launch of the Big Society as an idea, manifesto and network. It divided opinion then, and continues to do so now. Difficult to define, increasingly politicised and in all likelihood terminally linked to the programme of cuts that its founders claim it is independent from, it is nonetheless impressively resistant, and has been a defining part of the public and third sector discourse in the last 12 months. This is testament to the appealing nature of its core ideas and ambitions as much as it is to the canny way it has been positioned by its founders and supporters, and at the very least it can be described as a hugely successful rebrand of ideas that are far from new. Whether it will ultimately prove a PR success for Cameron and his party is more complicated, because it has become so politicised, but the fact that it is still a key part of the conversation a year on is impressive in itself. The anniversary was marked in a number of ways, I’ll pick out two.
One was a short film and report commissioned by charitable foundation the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, which highlights the concerns and effects of the Big Society on five organisations from across the UK. A summary of the report can be found here, and the video is here.
The second Big Society-related piece is the Our Society event that took place yesterday to coincide with other things marking a year of the agenda. Our Society is the voluntary group set up by some of the key Big Society watchers who have gradually become critical of the agenda and the way it is being managed, often having originally been sympathetic to the ambition of the project. It is beginning to take the form of a watchdog for Big Society, and was this week positioned by David Wilcox, one of the founders, as providing “people with a space to celebrate their achievements in local communities, share experience, and work out how to survive and make the best of the changes Big Society was bringing”. The key voice in Our Society is Julian Dobson, who regularly blogs about the initiative at Living With Rats. His post, which sums up the key points from yesterday’s Big Society Reality Check event and articulates 5 of the biggest tests for Big Society in the coming year, can be accessed here.
The NCVO blog this week hosted the first in a series of guest posts from Tom Hall, Head of Philanthropy and Social Investment at Scope, entitled “Lending as a form of giving” in which he wrote about how Scope were using social investment to improve their services. Social Investment is thought of by many as the future of charity funding, and Hall provides a good summary of where the sector currently stands with this type of investment. As a sector whose traditional funding streams are to some extent evaporating, the need to consider all options is clearly a pressing one. Hall expands the meaning of social investment to incorporate any financial input that is designed to achieve a social return, and speaks of Scope’s Grangewood Venture Philanthropy Project (GVPP). That project, which will provide independent living accommodation for 15 disabled adults with complex impairments, combines “different social investment opportunities for different markets to achieve a given social impact as efficiently as possible”. You can read the full post here.
Finally, an article from New Philanthropy Capital on the long-predicted problems facing organisations that tackle Violence Against Women. You can read that here.