Sep 3, 2019
In episode 55, we talk to Julia Unwin CBE, Chair of the
Independent Inquiry into Civil Society Futures, former CEO of the
Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust and
prolific thinker and writer on issues affecting civil society. As
part of a wide-ranging conversation, we discuss:
- What is the Civil Society Futures Inquiry & how did it come
- What is the PACT framework and how is it intended to guide
civil society orgs in the future?
- There is a lot of interest at present in ‘place-based’
approaches. Why is this, and what is the power of place?
- We are seeing the emergence of new organisational models within
civil society, including many that look less like traditional
hierarchies and more like networks. What opportunities and
challenges might this bring?
- We are also seeing new approaches such as participatory
grantmaking, which seek to shift power as well as money towards
recipients, gain traction? Will this be a big trend in coming
- Do charities and funders need to be more transparent? If so,
why and about what? Who does it benefit?
- Is declining trust is an issue for civil society? If so, is
this merely part of a wider decline in trust in traditional
institutions, or do charities and CSOs face particular challenges?
How can we reverse this trend?
- What is the core role of philanthropy within society which
differentiates it from either state or market provision?
- What role can philanthropy and voluntary action play in
building bridging social capital, bringing diverse communities
together or fostering wider civic engagement? Does this value of
charitable giving and volunteering as an activity rather than
simply the outcomes it produces need to be a more prominent part of
the narrative about its importance to society?
- What do you make of criticisms that since philanthropy is to
some extent a product of structural inequality, it can never truly
be part of the solution? Do you think some donors and funders
recognise the challenges and are genuinely pursuing structural
- A challenge like the global climate crisis raises difficult
questions about whether a pragmatic approach of working with
existing systems can ever be enough; or whether we need to embrace
more radical, transformative change efforts. Do you think
philanthropy is well-suited to the latter?
- The freedom that philanthropy and civil society have to run
counter to the status quo or the policies and public opinion of a
particular time has been a key part of driving historic social
change. How do we preserve this freedom, whilst also answering
concerns that unchecked philanthropic power could end up being
- Has the policy focus in the UK over the last 20 years on the
idea of charities as delivery agents for public services resulted
in the importance of the sector’s campaigning role being
downplayed? Has this contributed to some of the challenges we now
see such as the Lobbying Act and the use of advocacy clauses in
grant contracts? How do we rebalance things, and ensure that civil
society is able to play its role in speaking necessary truth to