Share

Etherington fears emergence of 'fourth sector'

Sir Stuart Etherington, CEO, NCVO
News

Etherington fears emergence of 'fourth sector'3

Governance | Jonathan Last | 14 Feb 2012

Sir Stuart Etherington is concerned that the delivery of public services may eventually be limited to only a small number of large-scale providers, effectively creating a ‘fourth sector’.

Delivering his speech ‘The Future of Civil Society’ at York University last week, the NCVO CEO said that a consequence of large statutory contracts which involve sub-contractors and depend on competition could be that public service delivery will be limited to a small number of large-scale providers, with user involvement tokenistic – and that charities will be exploited by larger players.

He also outlined his fears that smaller charities are often not web-savvy enough to cope with modern technical demands, that dissent was being marginalised since advocacy is becoming increasingly hard to find, and that giving and philanthropy are too focused towards the wealthiest individuals, creating implications for democracy and accountability.

Sir Stuart also reiterated the widespread concern in the sector over the damaging effect of the government’s inconsistent messaging on the Big Society, as well as the perception amongst some that “the Big Society presents an agenda for a negative squeeze on funding combined with an increase in demand for services in the voluntary sector”.

It was not all doom and gloom, however, as Sir Stuart counteracted his more negative foreshadowing by stating that there are still grounds for optimism. “Government policy towards the sector remains supportive: there is a real desire amongst policy-makers to strengthen our culture of giving and philanthropy,” he said. “And it is worth mentioning that this is a resilient culture, one that has not been easily shaken by recessions in the past.”

He continued: “Government is also trying to stimulate the social finance market, both in terms of the supply side and the demand side. So, incremental changes to tax and regulation will, I hope, increase the flow of social capital into the sector, whilst support for voluntary organisations to be investment ready will help us engage with this agenda.”

Sir Stuart also believes that there is a genuine commitment on the part of government to open up public services that will involve users and in turn create opportunities for the sector to transform those services, both from the user experience perspective and from the taxpayers’ perspective.

Paul Edwards
Community Development Worker
N/A
16 Feb 2012

I long-ago foresaw the possibility of the rise of a fourth sector. Even under New Labour, there were straws in the wind about contracting for social welfare provision becoming the preserve of the big, corporatist, well-funded voluntary sector organisations and with smaller VCOs being marginalised and even more poorly funded as a consequence.

Now, the sector is wide open to big multi-nationals as well. I recently came across the case of a County Council contracting with a high-tech, multi-national company that that is heavily into the defence and mining industries, to provide, of all things, community advice on sustainable travel. You have ask what real adherence such a company would have to the principles of sustainable travel and what dedicated and experienced voluntary sector green transport organisations missed out on the contract.

Jeff Mowatt
Director
People-Centered Economic Development
15 Feb 2012

The social business approach we operate has been described elsewhere as a 'Fourth Sector'. In our case a small business.

Experience teaches that Sir Stuart is right in that in spite of our efforts we have more than once been brushed aside by larger corporate entities whose social credentials are unproven.

Peter Maple
Course Director MSc Management in Civil Society (Marketing and Fundraising)
LSBU
15 Feb 2012

Stuart is absolutely right to highlight the dangers of current government policy that will allow a small number of for profit companies to dominate the provision of public service which were previously the baliwick of smaller, innovative charities focussing, not on profit, but on delivering the best possible services and outcomes for beneficiaries.

What's worse is the cognative dissonance being shown by the coalition, in supposedly promoting and encouraging "the big society" whilst retreating from and slashing the funding for such services. The reality is that we have a big society which needs investment. As it is we'll finish up with a smaller society which will penalize those least able to speak up and complain.

Comments

[Cancel] | Reply to:

Close »

Community Standards

The civilsociety.co.uk community and comments board is intended as a platform for informed and civilised debate.

We hope to encourage a broad range of views, however, there are standards that we expect commentators to uphold. We reserve the right to delete or amend any comments that do not adhere to these standards.

We welcome:

  • Robust but respectful debate
  • Strongly held opinions
  • Intelligent relevant discussion
  • The sharing of relevant experiences
  • New participants

We will not publish:

  • Rude, threatening, offensive, obscene or abusive language, or links to such material
  • Links to commercial organisations or spam postings. The comments board is not an advertising platform
  • The posting of contact details for yourself or others
  • Comments intended for malicious purpose or mindless abuse
  • Comments purporting to be from another person or organisation under false pretences
  • Gratuitous criticism, commentary or self-promotion
  • Any material which breaches copyright or privacy laws, or could be considered libellous
  • The use of the comments board for the pursuit or extension of personal disputes

Be aware:

  • Views expressed on the comments board are left at users’ discretion and are in no way views held or supported by Civil Society Media
  • Comments left by others may not be accurate, do not rely on them as fact
  • You may be misunderstood - sarcasm and humour can easily be taken out of context, try to be clear

Please:

  • Enjoy the opportunity to express your opinion and respect the right of others to express theirs
  • Confine your remarks to issues rather than personalities

Together we can keep our community a polite, respectful and intelligent platform for discussion.

Free eNews

BeatBullying's technology CIC has not filed accounts with Companies House

22 Oct 2014

A software community interest company set up by the BeatBullying Group in 2012 is almost a year late filing...

Charity Commission to get £9m funding boost and new powers to tackle tax avoidance and terrorism

22 Oct 2014

The Charity Commission will receive £9m of extra funding over the next three years, as well as new powers...

Age UK spends £1.8m in latest round of redundancies

21 Oct 2014

Age UK spent £1.81m on 120 redundancies in 2014, on top of £1.17m last year, as part of a review of...

Age UK spends £1.8m in latest round of redundancies

21 Oct 2014

Age UK spent £1.81m on 120 redundancies in 2014, on top of £1.17m last year, as part of a review of...

Stand Up To Cancer raises over £14.5m

21 Oct 2014

This weekend's Stand Up To Cancer event has raised over £14.5m so far, and that figure is continuing...

Charities 'must continue to fight for the right to influence policy'

20 Oct 2014

Civil society organisations must not give up the fight to influence policy and governments, the international...

BeatBullying's technology CIC has not filed accounts with Companies House

22 Oct 2014

A software community interest company set up by the BeatBullying Group in 2012 is almost a year late filing...

Blackbaud launches online giving platform for individual fundraisers

17 Oct 2014

Blackbaud has launched its online giving platform, everydayhero, for fundraisers in the UK in a bid to...

Don't dismiss social media 'slacktivists', fundraisers told at IFC

16 Oct 2014

Charities should embrace and love charity ‘slacktivists’ because social is a great ramp for new donors,...

Join the discussion

Twitter
 
Training

Attending our one day courses is a highly effective way of ensuring new and existing trustees fully understand their role, responsibilities and liabilities.

>> Find out more <<