‘Friendly relationship between government and charities coming to an end’

11 Oct 2018 News

Geoff Mulgan, chief executive of Nesta, a charity that champions innovation

The “relatively friendly” relationship between UK charities and the government is likely to “come to an end” because populist politicians do not share the same ideas as many in the sector, the chief executive of Nesta has said. 

Geoff Mulgan, who heads up Nesta a charity that champions innovation, was speaking yesterday at the NPC Ignites conference about how charities can harness the new power dynamic. He urged delegates to plan for a future where they had “less access” to those in power. 

In practice this means that civil society leaders are less likely to be invited to participate in things like advisory boards and have their views welcomed by ministers. 

He described the positive messaging from the recent Civil Society Strategy as “against the grain”. 

His “guess” is that the “relatively friendly, easy partnership” between charities and the government of the day is “coming to an end” because populist politicians would be “a lot less favourable to a lot of the things talked about in this room”.

‘Charities need a plan’ 

Mulgan said he hoped “I am wrong” but that charities should prepare for a different type of relationship with political leaders. 

He said that the current arrangement in the UK is quite unique and that in most countries civil society leaders do not have as much access to political leaders. 

“This sector needs to plan,” he said, for how it can become more of a “challenger to power” because it won’t have “easy access” to influence the agenda. 

He said there is an alternative vision for the future and referred to the work of the Inclusive Economy Partnership, which Nesta is involved with, which is bringing together government, private sector and civil society where there is more of a “focus on problems”. 

Charities are ‘bystanders’ to the fourth industrial revolutions 

Mulgan warned delegates that that the sector is mainly a “bystander” to the fourth industrial revolution. 

He described this as an “umbrella term for very rapid progress in things like AI” but said that in the main civil society is “playing no part whatsoever in this revolution”. 

It is “scarcely using” new technology and is “not influencing how the technology is developed”. 

He said there is funding being directed into programmes to use technology for social good but that charities were “missing a trick as a community in influencing, shaping and making use of an extraordinary new wave of technology”. 

Mulgan said it is “crucial” charities get better at supporting beneficiaries because, if they don’t, new tools could be used against them. 

This could result in charities “turning up at a gun fight with bows and arrows,” he warned. 

The Charity Technology Conference takes place on 7 November 2018. For more information and to book click here. 



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