Apr 20, 2021
In this episode we talk to Andy Haldane, Chief Economist of the
Bank of England about his long-standing interest in civil society,
why he thinks it is so important yet undervalued, and what sort of
challenges and opportunities the coming years may bring. We also
have some analysis and additional insight from CAF CEO Neil
The economy and charitable giving
- If the UK economy is like a “coiled spring”, and once lockdown
measures are relaxed we will see a significant bounce-back as
people start to spend again, will we also see a corresponding rise
in charitable giving?
- Are there any concerns that some charities will have lost
operational and fundraising capacity as a result of the pandemic,
and this might limit their ability to harness any increase in
The Role of Civil Society
- What is the core role of the voluntary sector within society
which differentiates it from either state or market provision?
- As the landscape for doing good appears to be expanding (with
the emergence of mutual aid networks, digital social movements,
purpose-led businesses, impact investing etc) do we need to make a
renewed case for the unique value of charitable organisations? If
so, what is that USP?
- Should we have any concerns that some of our models for
engaging in civil society have become too transactional and thus
may not be developing social capital in the way we might want?
- Many argue that a major challenge facing civil society is that
most current systems of measurement do not capture the full value
of what charities and other civil society organisations do. What
should we be measuring instead?
- Is this more about better measurement within civil society, or
about changing the measures government uses (e.g. GDP) so that they
capture a wider notion of value? Or is it both? What would this
entail in practice?
- Are there potential risks in putting more emphasis on
measurement? E.g. that any measures become targets and thus skew
activity (a la Goodhart’s Law); or that the decision about who gets
to set measures introduces problematic power dynamics?
Civil Society Narratives & Influence
- Andy has previously argued that “despite its crucial role, the
social sector goes largely unnoticed in many policy discussions”-
is this primarily due to the current lack of appropriate
measurement, or are there wider issues when it comes to our
understanding and narratives around civil society?
- How can we get better understanding and clearer narratives
about civil society and its role in the minds of policymakers?
- Are there any practical barriers that are currently limiting
the ability of civil society to “have a seat at the table” when it
comes to policy discussions? What could we do to overcome
- The pandemic has highlighted more starkly than ever how vital
it is to have strong infrastructure in civil society. Where are the
greatest weaknesses or biggest gaps in existing infrastructure that
we need to address?
- How do we get government to think of social infrastructure
alongside physical infrastructure?
- What might civil society infrastructure that is fit for the
future (rather than based on the structures of the past) look
- Evidence suggest that the charity sector is currently lagging
behind in its adaptation to digital technology. What are the key
barriers preventing charities from harnessing digital? How can we
- What more could be done to match the existing supply of skills
and capacity around technology in the private sector with the
potential demand in civil society. How might this work? What role
would the private sector, government and the charity sector need to
play in making it happen?
- Will the current period of enforced digitisation as a
consequence of the COVID pandemic lead to more CSOs engaging with
the opportunities and challenges of technology?
Civil Society in the 4th Industrial
- Civil society played a key role in previous periods of rapid
social and technological change - by helping people and communities
to navigate challenges and opportunities, and by speaking out
against any unintended harms of progress. Is civil society in a
position to play this vital role in the current Fourth Industrial
Revolution? If not, why not? What do we need to do to strengthen
civil society capacity in this regard?
- What are some of the biggest opportunities that emerging
technology could bring for civil society?
- Could widespread automation lead to a blurring of the
boundaries between our notions of work, volunteering and leisure?
Will we need to adjust our understanding and narratives of civil
- Should civil society organisations make a case for their value
as sources of knowledge and insight about the potential impacts of
technology on people and communities, which can help to inform
wider policy debates about technological development?
- Andy’s speech for the Pro Bono Economics 10th anniversary
Third Pillar and the Fourth Industrial Revolution”
- FT, “Andy
Haldane: Bring charities out of the technological dark
- Civil Society, “Charities
'underestimated and overshadowed’ says Bank of England chief
- Civil Society “Andy
Haldane: Covid-19 has reinforced the values of community purpose
and social solidarity”
- The Guardian, “Andy
Haldane: ‘We have allowed the voluntary sector to wither’”
- Andy’s speech for Charity Finance Week 2020,
“The Role of Charities in an Era of Anxiety”
- Andy’s slides for his 2020 lecture, “The
Health, Wealth & Happiness of Nations”
- Mark Carney’s
- CAF Giving Thought podcast, “Philanthropy,
civil society and COVID-19: what now, what next?”
- CAF’s “A
Covid-19 Philanthropy Stimulus Package” policy paper, 2020
- Rhod’s WEF article, “Where
are the charities in the great AI debate?”
- Rhod’s Alliance magazine piece, “Riding
the tiger of technological change”