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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



Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation, spoke in early November at an LSE event hosted by the International Inequalities Institute.  Barrow Cadbury Trust’s Living Wage intern, Sian Williams, went along to hear his thoughts on how he sees the future of modern philanthropy

Are you sitting comfortably? If so, then your foundation might need to rethink its approach to philanthropy. This was the message from President of the Ford Foundation Darren Walker, as he addressed the audience at LSE’s evening event ‘Investing in Equality: the role of capital and justice in addressing inequality’. The Ford Foundation is one of the largest and most influential foundations in the US, and has been committed to advancing human welfare and reducing inequality for more than 80 years.

Uncomfortable Truths: The New Gospel of Wealth

Walker explained that modern philanthropy has largely been motivated by generosity. He referred to American industrialist Andrew Carnegie’s 1889 essay ‘The Gospel of Wealth’, which has had a considerable influence on modern philanthropy. Carnegie felt that it was the moral duty of the wealthy to redistribute their surplus wealth in a responsible and generous manner.

However, Walker argued that generosity is not enough, and today’s philanthropy must instead be driven by the quest for justice. Generosity, he argued, allows those who are privileged to remain comfortable in their giving, and insulated from some of the uncomfortable truths in society. Justice-driven philanthropy on the other hand requires the privileged to become a little uncomfortable. It involves tackling structural inequality and bringing about systemic change. This is what Walker calls ‘The New Gospel of Wealth’. This approach was in part inspired by Martin Luther King Junior’s comment that“Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary.”

Changing the Narrative

Walker also stressed the importance of looking critically at the culture, structures and practices within our own institutions. Foundations excel at the rhetoric of change and progress but are often less good at putting this into practice in their own organisations. For example, when it comes to hiring practices, there are significant hurdles to overcome around diversity and the inclusion of individuals with ‘authentic knowledge’ that comes from having lived experience. He believes it is important to acknowledge our own privilege and biases, and reflect on where our institutions fall short.

Despite highlighting the many injustices which make philanthropy necessary, Walker remains positive about the future. He warned against promoting a narrative of hopelessness which renders people vulnerable and insecure. Instead he proposed challenging prevailing narratives, empowering communities and giving voice to the disadvantaged. To do this foundations must continue to invest in the three I’s: individuals, institutions and ideas. Crucially, we should not shy away from the uncomfortable truths in society, at the same time as addressing the underlying causes of inequality.






Income inequality has become an increasingly important political issue in recent months. The High Pay Centre has released a new 3 minute animation to outline the size of the paygap and compares the situation with other European countries, where similar levels of total income are shared much more evenly, meaning that people at the bottom and in the middle have more.


The film highlights how:

  • pay for top bosses nearly doubled over the past decade, while ordinary workers wages remained the same


  • a FTSE 100 CEO earns four times as much in one year as the average worker does in their entire lifetime


  • if total incomes in the UK were divided as evenly as in Denmark or the Netherlands, 99 per cent of households would be better off by nearly £3,000 per year



You can watch the first film here and you can access additional reports and information on income inequality and excessive pay on the High Pay Centre’s blog and publication pages.

Follow the High Pay Centre on Twitter @HighPayCentre and join the conversation about the video using #paygap!