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A new project has been launched to develop a set of principles for trustees to use when making decisions about their charity investments. The Charity Investment Governance Principles project was launched in November 2023, explores best practice in decision-making around charity investments, and will draw on the experiences of charities across England and Wales.

The principles will reflect the outcomes of the high-profile Butler-Sloss case of 2022 and will complement the Charity Commission’s recently updated CC14 guidance and the Charity Governance Code. The principles are expected to be published in summer 2024.

Led by a steering group of charity sector experts and umbrella bodies, the project aims to work with charities to develop a set of principles for trustees and leaders to use when making decisions when investing charity funds.

Charity trustees and leaders, and those organisations with an interest in investment governance, are invited to register their interest to engage with the project by completing this short form.

Charity Finance Group (CFG) will host the project and it will be led by Gail Cunningham. In addition to CFG, the project’s steering group also includes representatives from the Association of Charitable Foundations (ACF); National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO); Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA); and the Secretariat of the Charities Responsible Investment Network (CRIN).

Joining the group as expert advisers are Luke Fletcher, partner at Bates Wells, Elizabeth Jones, partner at Farrer & Co and Kristina Kopic, Head of Charity and Voluntary Sector at the Institute of Chartered Accountants for England and Wales (ICAEW). The Social Justice Collective and The Social Investment Consultancy (TSIC) will provide support on equality, diversity and inclusion across the project. Representatives from the Charity Commission for England and Wales (CCEW) will join as independent observers.

The project has attracted funding from six grantmaking organisations – Friends Provident Foundation; City Bridge Foundation; Access –The Foundation for Social Investment; Mark Leonard, Aurora and JJ Trusts; and Joseph Rowntree Foundation, including Barrow Cadbury Trust.

Three and a half years after the murder of George Floyd, and despite considerable attention in civil society to racism and anti-racism, too little has changed in day-to-day experience for Black and Minoritised Ethnic people in mainstream civil society according to the findings of a new report, ‘Warm Words, Cold Comfort: UK civil society’s ongoing racism problem’ released today by ACEVO and Voice4Change England and authored by Dr. Sanjiv Lingayah, co creator of the Home Truths 2 programme.

This report is informed by a survey of over 130 Black and Minoritised Ethnic people working in mainstream civil society and is the first major output of the Home Truths 2 programme, designed to challenge and support mainstream UK civil society to take serious practical action on anti-racism and race equity. The insights and experiences reflected in this report will guide the programme’s work to build a sector that takes meaningful action on anti-racism and race equity.

The report shows that while there are some signs that organisations are signalling that they are against racism, they are not taking practical steps to change experiences. Key findings shed light on urgent challenges and hope for progress.  The report reveals some alarming realities:

  • 77% of respondents have experienced or witnessed racism within civil society within the last five years;
  • 59% doubt the commitment of civil society leaders to combat racism effectively;
  • 68% of respondents have felt the need to ‘tone down’ their behaviour or to be on their ‘best behaviour’ in order to fit into mainstream civil society.

Amid these negative experiences and perspectives, the report also highlights that there is hope.

  • 46% of contributors feel that anti-racism/race equity is taken seriously in their organisation; and
  • 65% are hopeful that progress will be made on anti-racism/race equity in the organisation in which they work.

Whether this hope is well founded will largely depend on the courage and commitment of mainstream civil society leaders and organisations to undertake the hard emotional and practical labour that of moving towards anti-racism and race equity. If there is enough willingness, transformation is possible. If not, then mainstream civil society will be deemed to have offered warm words on racism, but these words will offer cold comfort and count for little.

A call for transformative change

The full report offers comprehensive insights and offers a textured account of the realities of working towards race equity and anti-racism in mainstream UK civil society more than three years on from the murder of George Floyd and the publication of the first Home Truths

The report kicks off a programme of wider activities for The Home Truths 2 over the next 18 months . The “Further, Faster” programme designed to support chief executives and senior leaders already active in anti-racism and race equity practice within their organisations to make rapid and meaningful progress, will open for applications in the new year. For those ready to make anti-racism and race equity core to their organisation’s mission and take action, register your interest to be kept informed and be the first to know when applications are open.

About the survey

The survey ran online from 17 July 2023 to 12 October 2023 and was open to Black and Minoritised Ethnic people with recent or current experience of working in UK mainstream civil society. It gathered a total of 139 valid responses. At the time of survey completion, 129 out of the 139 contributors were working in civil society – the vast majority as employees.

The largest representation in the survey was of people working in organisations with annual income of between £1 million and £5 million. Other respondents were fairly evenly distributed, including between organisations with annual income of £100,000 or less and £50 million or more. It is noted that discrimination faced by Black and Minoritised Ethnic people may be compounded by multiple factors in addition to their ‘race.’ Most survey respondents fell into intersectional categories, as a result of which they may be subject to discrimination on multiple grounds.

About Home Truths 2

Home Truths 2 is a programme of work from ACEVO and Voice4Change England designed to challenge and support mainstream UK civil society to take serious practical action on anti-racism and race equity. Over the course of the next 18 months, Home Truths 2 will engage stakeholders from across civil society, including senior leaders, staff and those working within and alongside civil society organisations in a targeted practical programme of activity. Home Truths 2 will offer practical resources and guidance to mainstream civil society in general. The work includes approaches to calculating and remedying ethnic pay disparities, integrating race equity into the core mission and bringing senior leaders together to drive forward their anti-racist and race equity practice.

The elements of the programme will contribute to converting the positive words from mainstream civil society on anti-racism and race equity into practical and powerful change.

Civil Society Futures is the independent inquiry into the future of English ‘civil society’ – everything we do together that’s not the state and not for profit, from faith groups to Facebook groups, social enterprise to social media to social movements, formal and informal.

How can civil society thrive in the next ten years?  What are the challenges? What are the possibilities?  This is what Civil Society Futures is trying to find the answers to.

One year on from its launch, from 26 April and into May we’re sharing what they’ve heard so far – centred around the theme of putting power in the hands of people and communities – and they want to involve people more as the inquiry continues up to the end of 2018.

What has the Inquiry heard so far?

In the past year the Inquiry team has travelled around the country, hearing from over 1,500 people, from local communities to large organisations. What it’s heard is that:

Civil society really matters – it is a valuable and essential part of our daily lives, bringing people together, building their confidence and capability, offering a helping hand to those in crisis, delivering services, challenging injustice.

But our generation is facing new challenges.  More impersonal and more divided, we face the possibility of an ‘us and them’ future.  Frustration with local and national government.  Inequality. Racial tensions. Robots replacing humans.  Impersonal transactions replacing human relationships. Many feel like power is out of reach, have little control over the future.  People are losing trust in big institutions including charities.

Civil society needs to respond.  Its big role in the coming years is to generate a radical and creative shift which puts power in the hands of people and communities, connecting us better and humanising the way we do things.  This includes:

  • Transforming the places that matter – from local communities to the internet
  • Bringing us together – across racial and other divides
    Shaping the future of work – and find purpose in activities beyond work
  • Reimagining how charities and other groups are run – and building new kinds of organisations and movements

The Inquiry wants to reach Sector professionals people in power in charity / volunteering / related sectors (large organisations, funders, sector leaders, membership bodies), Innovators people across civil society creating radical change (both informal and formal across community, activism, social enterprise, tech, charity and more.

Find out more by reading the 1 year work in progress reports below or watching the Civil Society Futures animation.  And please tell them what you thinkleave comments, share your views on social media #civilsocietyfutures, share your story, host a discussion or write a blog.

You can also read reports on the first year’s work:

Civil Society Futures Summary Report – Work in Progress

Interim research report – end of year



Debbie Pippard, Head of Programmes at Barrow Cadbury Trust, asks what can be done to support a strong and healthy civil society both here and overseas.

The Barrow Cadbury Trust was set up by husband and wife, Barrow and Geraldine Cadbury, almost 100 years ago.  We consider ourselves to be part of, as well as funders of, civil society and we still follow the old Quaker imperative (since adopted widely by others) of ‘speaking truth to power’.  That’s something we can do more or less with impunity in the UK, but this is not of course the case in all areas of the globe.

And because we see ourselves as very much an active player and partner in civil society, CAF (Charities Aid Foundation) approached the Trust to be a partner in its 2017 party conference fringe events around the issue of what has come to be known as the ‘shrinking space for civil society’ – the increasing trend of governments around the world to pass regressive laws that affect freedom of association, and repress the ability of people to speak up on important issues of civil liberty.

Bad news for civil liberties

The figures speak for themselves but are shocking nonetheless.  More than 120 laws constraining freedom of association and assembly have been proposed and enacted in 60 countries since 2012 – that’s a huge blow to individual and community rights and impedes good governance and the development of healthy societies where everyone has a chance to achieve their potential.

Here in the UK of course we have a rich heritage of charities and community organisations – and that rich heritage has had a vital part to play in the creation of the liberal democracy in which we live.  Our civil society – both its existence and its governance – is admired across the globe, not only by activists struggling in repressive regimes, but by those much closer to home in Europe.

The reaction of colleagues in countries we respect such as the Netherlands and the Nordic countries of Scandinavia to changes in UK law and regulation such as the Lobbying Act and the proposed Anti-advocacy Clause are surprise and bewilderment.  Of course the changes proposed for charities look relatively trivial compared to some of the changes we’ve seen in other countries such as Hungary.  But they undermine a long history of communities of citizens linked by common interests and collective activity and the comfort offered to those seeking to suppress opposition in parts of the world where speaking up comes at a great price.  The UK is seen as a world leader in supporting freedom of speech and protecting human rights – it’s hard to overestimate the impact that even small steps to limit freedoms of civil society has in other countries where political leaders seek to repress opposition.

Using international development to bolster civil society

Many on the international stage look to the UK as an example of best practice in charity law and governance, and see the benefits of a “thick layer” of civil society (to quote our colleague Jordi Vaquer from the Open Society Foundation).  It’s easy to take our own attitudes and traditions for granted and forget how influential the charity sector is in the UK.  That’s why in the party conference events with CAF we took as our theme the exploration of ‘international development as an example of the UK’s soft power’.

The UK can influence global behaviour and help set the conditions for positive social change by consciously setting an example and using our resources and experience to support the development of a strong civil society in countries with which we have relationships. The Government’s continuing commitment to the 0.7% aid target is very welcome.  We’d like to see a good part of those funds used to support the growth and maintenance of civil society. Soft power – projecting values through influence, ideas and the power of persuasion – is a powerful tool for influence overseas. By using our funds wisely, and by setting an example at home, we can use our heritage of a strong civil society to influence the change we’d like to see.

Debbie Pippard


Barrow Cadbury Trust’s contribution towards the costs of the fringe events came from the Barrow Cadbury Fund.

Read about CAF’s Groundwork for Global Giving campaign

Read NPC’s ‘The Shared Society needs a Strong Civil Society’

Find out about work on this issue co-ordinated by the European Foundation Centre


During the closing plenary of the European Foundations Centre’s 2017 Annual General Assembly and Conference on Friday 2 June, EFC Chair Ewa Kulik-Bielińska announced the Warsaw Declaration to delegates concerning a new Philanthropic Alliance for Solidarity and Democracy in Europe:

EFC Warsaw Declaration

Philanthropic Alliance for Solidarity and Democracy in Europe

Today, in Warsaw, at the 28th EFC conference ‘Courage to re-embrace solidarity in Europe’, a diverse group of foundations concerned with the state of democracy in Europe came together to launch the Alliance.

“Civil society across Europe is currently experiencing increasing infringements on its ability to operate independently, resulting in a negative impact on democracy, diversity, equality and freedom. Non-governmental and academic institutions and the free media are being constrained by governments, and civil society actors are attacked, discredited and presented as public enemies.

The Philanthropic Alliance for Solidarity and Democracy in Europe is concerned both with the operating environment for civil society and, more broadly, with the urgency to respond to the violation of democratic values such as human dignity, freedom, justice, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights. Therefore, we commit to pooling together broad-based, diverse philanthropic resources and establishing a Solidarity Fund to support initiatives aimed at strengthening civil society actors and safeguarding democratic values in Europe.

Initiating this alliance in Poland – the cradle of the Solidarity movement in Europe – demonstrates the ability of the European and international philanthropic community to join forces to bolster solidarity across Europe.

We believe that as a philanthropic community we must send a firm collective message that democracy prevails and can only be realised by securing a strong, independent and enabled civil society. As organisations that use private funds for public good we have a critical role to play in calling on European public institutions to develop robust mechanisms to protect, defend and promote these fundamental freedoms.

Our times call urgently for courage to stand together and act for democracy and solidarity in Europe and around the world.

If you would like to get involved with the Alliance contact EFC Chief Executive, Gerry Salole [email protected].

David Cutler, Director of the Baring Foundation, writes about why the Baring Foundation has taken the lead in the creation of an Independent Inquiry into the Future of Civil Society starting work this month.  

Since 1969, the Baring Foundation has given grants to voluntary sector organisations seeking to tackle discrimination and disadvantage. One of our first grants was to Centrepoint which was founded in the same year. In 1995, with the collapse of Baring Bros bank, the Foundation became an independent entity with a sharper focus on the role of civil society through our Strengthening the Voluntary Sector Programme.

At the same time, Nicholas Deakin was chairing the Independent Inquiry into the Future of the Voluntary Sector. Its report, published a year later, did much to establish the rules of engagement between central government and the voluntary sector, especially through the Compact. The latter agreement acknowledged the contribution of the voluntary sector to civic life and also sought to protect that role, particularly by recognising the right of an independent sector to advocate on the behalf of those it serves.

We were fortunate enough to secure Nicholas Deakin as a trustee who went on to lead our Strengthening the Voluntary Sector programme. The Foundation focused its social justice grant-making from 2006 on the question of the independence of the voluntary sector. We knew that concerns about independence were not confined to the UK. (And these concerns have only grown more widespread and more acute, with Civicus estimating last year that over half the world’s governments were engaged in legislation or other action to restrict the freedom of civil society.) The impact of some of the grants we made is captured here.

Our concerns over the freedom of the voluntary sector are of course not party- political. The grants programme was launched under a Labour Government, we initiated the subsequent Panel on the Independence of the Voluntary Sector under the Coalition Government and the Independent Inquiry will work under a Conservative Government. The Panel on the Independence of the Voluntary Sector brought together widely respected leaders from civil society to analyse systematically the opportunities and pressures on civil society.

Like all good ideas, many people saw the need for a broad look at the future of civil society. NCVO had planned to mark its centenary in 2019 with such an Inquiry and have very generously given £100k in research resources to the Independent Inquiry. The Panel on the Independence of the Voluntary Sector in their third report in 2014 concluded that ‘a “new settlement” is required between the voluntary sector and key partners, particularly the state, but this needs to be underpinned by a shared understanding of the distinctive contribution of an independent voluntary sector. This thought was then elaborated in a subsequent collection of essays by Civil Exchange published the same year. Special mention in all this must go to Caroline Slocock who as Director of Civil Exchange has been a great champion for the independence of the voluntary sector and her most recent report sponsored by Lankelly Chase and ourselves is an important contribution to the Inquiry.

In taking the decision to commit £200k in core funding as an anchor pledge for the Inquiry, the Foundation is very much in the debt of Margaret Bolton who, acting as an independent consultant for us, spoke to a range of potential stakeholders regarding the prospect of an Independent Inquiry. Her careful analysis was critical in securing the essential support of seven other foundations as core funders:

  • Barrow Cadbury Trust
  • Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation UK
  • City Bridge Trust
  • Esmée Fairbairn Foundation
  • Lankelly Chase
  • Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales
  • Paul Hamlyn Foundation.

This has been more than a group of funders signing cheques and lending their very significant weight to a project; rather they shaped the very nature of the enterprise, and continue to do so. However, the Inquiry is strictly independent from its funders as we believe deeply that it should be free to state whatever views it concludes, even if these are uncomfortable ones.

As a partnership this group then took the vital step of finding a Chair for the Inquiry. After interview, the funders unanimously and enthusiastically invited Julia Unwin to take up the position of Chair. This she has done with great energy and consummate skill since she stood down as the CEO of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. One of Julia’s first tasks was to form a Panel to support her – the result is a diverse group of people with a huge amount of experience in and outside the voluntary sector. Lastly, through an intensely competitive open process, a Secretariat for the Inquiry was appointed, led by Forum for the Future in partnership with Citizens UK, Goldsmiths, University of London and Open Democracy. Diversity has been a very important principle in designing the Inquiry, not only as regards equalities but also in perspective and experience.

As the House of Lords Select Committee on Charities in its recent report Stronger charities for a stronger society puts it: ‘charities are the eyes, ears and conscience of society. They mobilise, they provide, they inspire, they advocate and they unite’. Civil society is being challenged, it seems, ever more regularly about how it runs itself and these challenges need to be honestly and confidently addressed. In a time of political upheaval, civil society also needs to engage with deep societal and environmental changes regarding inequalities and discrimination, social cohesion, digital technology and automation in the workplace, ageing, devolution and climate change, to name but a few. The time is right for a broad look at how civil society serves all of society and how it can best be organised in the future.

So over the next two years, we look forward to a conversation between all corners of civil society and with society more broadly. The end of the Inquiry in 2019 will coincide with the Foundation’s 50th anniversary year and a strategy review. Its conclusions will be an important guide for us as we embark on our next 50 years.

The Independent Inquiry will be launched on 20 April.

Ariadne is a European peer-to-peer network of more than 500 funders and philanthropists who support social change and human rights. Ariadne helps those using private resources for public good achieve more together than they can alone by linking them to other funders and providing practical tools of support.    


Ariadne has launched a new forecast which aims to help grant makers and civil society to discover trends and  forward plan.  The forecast was put together with input from over 140 grant-makers and philanthropy experts.


Social change grant-makers say that the top issues shaping their world this year include migration and the closing space for Civil Society – this forecast explains why. Forecasters focus on what we need to watch out for and what questions we should be asking such as: How are funders adapting to blended finances and austerity? Who are the emerging stakeholders in the field, and what wildcards might be lurking?


You can read the forecast here, including a global assessment and reports from funders in France, Italy, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.


Barrow Cadbury Trust’s Chief Executive, Sara Llewellin, spoke at a recent event organised by New Philanthropy Capital on campaigning for social change: the role of trustees.  In this blog she talks about what campaigning means for Barrow Cadbury Trust trustees, as well as its continuing relevance for the sector.


Why do charities campaign on social issues? From where do they get their mandate and what are the related governance responsibilities of their trustees? 


The past year has seen a concerted effort by politicians (not all of them and not all of one hue either) to cast doubt on the legitimacy of charity campaigning. While it’s not for everyone, and must rightly not be conducted along party political lines, it is a democratic entitlement with a long and noble tradition. 


It is one of civil society’s fundamental functions to hold government to account. To do this responsibly requires us to generate and facilitate collective debate on ethical matters, as “honest brokers” seeking the well-being of our charitable beneficiaries.


Charity trustees are the guardians of their charitable missions. They are honour-bound to use resources in the most impactful way possible to advance that mission. For some, this means providing emergency services for those in crisis; for others, intervening earlier to prevent future problems. For some of us, it means addressing structural issues and creating a conduit for the voices of marginalised people to be heard in the corridors of power. 


For many charities, it makes no sense at all to continually ameliorate symptoms without looking for, and voicing, potential solutions. The suggestion that this is partisan political activity shows a misunderstanding of the role of civil society over time. Our sector has provided this “critical eye” for over a century and in the context of successive administrations of varying political colours. 


Boards at the Barrow Cadbury Trust have been supporting work which seeks to improve society at the structural level for nearly a century; it’s nothing new. Our founders, together with others, set up the first juvenile court in the world in Birmingham and then lobbied government until such provision was made mandatory in the Children’s Act of 1908.


Our current board, still one mainly of direct descendants, sets clear strategic aims for each of our programmes of work and sees its role as that of “impact scrutineer”. They ask what is the change we want to see in the world, how will it be achieved and who is best placed to help bring it about? We build alliances for social change and use all our resources (money, clout, brand, intellectual capital, premises, endowment) to strengthen the hands of the change makers. 


Our mandate comes from being independent and non-partisan—which doesn’t mean neutral, but being on the side of a better, fairer society. We are part of civil society, not just a supporter of it. We genuinely believe no one tribe, faith or party has a monopoly of good ideas; hence we work to build broad alliances around the advancement of the common good. My trustees think to do less would be a dereliction of their duty.


Charity campaigning is under greater scrutiny than ever, and so I was delighted to speak at NPC’s event, aimed at and attended mainly by charity trustees, on Monday 14 July — Campaigning for social change: the role of trustees — to discuss its continuing relevance and best practice.  Discussion at the event centred on the reasons for or against campaigning, the legal environment and good campaigning practice.

A slightly shorter version of this blog was published on the NPC website.


Since its re-election, the Hungarian government has continued to undermine the credibility of Hungarian NGOs and tried to gain control over NGO funding, which is distributed independently from the government.  The background to this stand-off is an ongoing dispute between the Hungarian and the Norwegian governments, with Budapest accusing Oslo of interfering in Hungarian political affairs through NGO funding of Hungarian civil society.


Representatives of the Hungarian government have made serious allegations about well-established, respected Hungarian NGOs which raise serious doubts about the commitment of the Hungarian government to its obligations as a democratic government and a member of the European Union.


A consortium of three Hungarian civil society organisations which disburse funds locally from the European Economic Area and Norway Grants are currently under investigation by the Hungarian government, following publication by the Prime Minister’s office of a list of recipient organisations, including some of the most reputable human rights and civil liberties groups in the country, which led to accusations of them being “problematic” and “left leaning”.  The three members of the consortium — Autonomia Foundation, DemNet and Ökotárs — are well known for their promotion of democracy, defence of human rights, and environmental work, as well as for ‘re-granting funds’ on behalf of other donors, including the European Union and USAID .  The consortium is challenging the investigation under Hungarian Law and is regarding it as an act of intimidation.


Human rights watchdogs and NGOs have a crucial role in democratic societies.  Any political pressure on them, or any attempt to restrict their funding, is against democratic principles, rules and standards, and the protection of universal values.  


The Barrow Cadbury Trust, as one of many donor organisations committed to human rights and democratic values, has signed a statement protesting about the actions of the Hungarian government against its own human rights NGOs and the consortium of grant-makers. We hope that the Hungarian government refrains from any further political pressure and shelters its NGO sector from threats and interference. We also call on EU member states and institutions to remain vigilant towards any government pressures on civil society organizations, in particular on human rights and civil liberties watchdogs, which have a fundamental role to play in democracy.