When we started our State of the Sector programme we knew that charitable organisations were struggling in the midst sweeping social, political, and economic changes. But we also knew, from our 15 years working with charities and funders, that they have great passion and innovative ideas to be harnessed.
In Charities taking charge, we held a mirror up to the sector, drawing on research involving around 400 charity leaders to show how far along the sector is on a journey of transformation. We found that many charities are bogged down in issues that are mostly out of their hands. But we also found examples of organisations who are leading the way. They are flipping the narrative of poor funding and rising need to find transformative solutions. We wanted to give more space to these approaches and ideas.
So here we publish 16 essays from innovative leaders thinking about, and putting into action, new ways of achieving social change for the causes and beneficiaries their organisations exist to serve. These leaders are showing how the principles and ideas highlighted in Charities taking charge are being taken forward. We hope that others in the sector can take heart and lessons for the journeys their own organisations are on, and ultimately deliver greater impact in a changing world.
The collection spans the biggest charities to smaller initiatives rooted in communities in different parts of the country. Alongside those who lead charities themselves, our authors include those with experience of government, from the funder community, and those who have received services from charities.
To begin, Charles Leadbeater sets out the challenges facing wider society, the context in which the social sector is operating in, the real need for transformative ideas and approaches. Then the essays fall into the four key themes that emerged from the research: strategy and governance, the sector’s relationship with the public, the sector’s relationship with the state, and new networks and resources.
In a sector so diverse there is, of course, no one single answer to the problems we face. In fact, some of these essayists disagree with one another on various points. But, as this collection shows, with boldness and imagination it is possible to transform the work that the social sector does, and deliver the long lasting social change Britain so desperately needs today. Charities can flip the current narrative, can take charge, can be bold in these times of change.
We’ll be feeding the findings from the State of the Sector programme into our work in the coming weeks and months. This includes a series of events following on from this collection involving the authors, so keep an eye out for those. In the meantime, check out the programme this year’s NPC Ignites, featuring ideas from this research, plus essay author, Mark Atkinson, Chief Executive of Scope.