Bubb refuses to accept Office of Civil Society rebrand

18 May 2010 News

Acevo chief executive Stephen Bubb has vowed to ignore the fact that the government has ditched the Office of the Third Sector in favour of the Office for Civil Society, and intends to continue to use the ‘third sector’ moniker in all references to the new minister and his office.

Sir Stephen Bubb, Chief Executive of Acevo

Acevo chief executive Stephen Bubb has vowed to ignore the fact that the government has ditched the Office of the Third Sector in favour of the Office for Civil Society, and intends to continue to use the ‘third sector’ moniker in  references to the new minister and his office.

Bubb (pictured) made the assertion in his blog titled 'What's in a name?' yesterday, declaring that the Office's change of name was just “a fad”.

“Civil society – what is that exactly?” he queried. “An organisation dedicated to promoting better manners?

“I would have thought there were somewhat more important things to do than spending money on rebranding?

“Acevo will remain third sector and as we uphold our national traditions we will continue to use OTS and the third sector minister as our nom de plume for these institutions.”

Acevo’s strapline is ‘Third sector leaders’.

Bubb also wrote: “Will ‘civil society’ go the way of ‘Big Society’ I wonder – a term no longer to be heard in Tory high command. There is a lesson here for politicians who waste time on names and other such ephemera." 

Acevo’s press office, asked whether Bubb’s stated refusal to use the names ‘Office of Civil Society’ and ‘minister for civil society’ was official Acevo policy, described his remarks as "jocular" and added: "Acevo has been referring to the sector as the 'third sector' since long before the OTS was established.

"Clearly it is up to government to decide what they want to call themselves and equally it's up to us what we want to call ourselves and refer to our colleagues in the sector as."

Etherington welcomes new name

NCVO chief executive Stuart Etherington, on the other hand, was very happy about the rebrand. Etherington has long been a vocal advocate of the term ‘civil society’ and the NCVO’s annual state-of-the-sector research report changed from Voluntary Sector Almanac to Civil Society Almanac last year.

Etherington told Civil Society he was “delighted that the government has recognised the wider contribution of civil society” in its shaping of the ministerial office.

"Many may mock this new term – civil society," he said. "But it has real value.  Civil society is driven by people themselves, by their concerns and their passions. It is where people come together to make a positive difference to their lives, and the lives of others. 

"It provides an important counterbalance to the power of the state and the power of the market.  It gives a positive definition of the role of charities and voluntary and community organisations, rather than defining us in relation to others, or by what we are not."

Charities Aid Foundation was also pleased. Hannah Terrey, head of policy and public affairs, said: “Never before have we seen a government put the role of civil society so high on its agenda.

"It’s very encouraging to see that, within its first two weeks, the coalition government has already begun to put into action its plans for a Big Society.  Charities, community groups and social enterprises all have vast experience of working to improve communities and it is vital that the government draws on this expertise."

Kevin Curley, CEO of Navca, however, said his organisation had decided not to use either 'civil society' or 'third sector', reverting instead to 'voluntary and community action' - "because that's the language our members use".

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