'Large parts of the sector are archaic'

17 Apr 2018 News

Too many charities are “archaic and reactive rather than transformative” and need to get "stuck in" to big conversations around how technology and society are changing rapidly.

Mark Stevenson, author, futurist and comedian, gave the closing plenary at NCVO’s annual conference yesterday, where he warned the sector that developments technology were fundamentally changing society but that the sector’s voices were being left out of important conversations. 

Stevenson told the audience about how developments in artificial intelligence, blockchain and other emerging technology were having a transformative effect on economics, politics and society, comparable to the industrial revolution. But he said charities risked becoming irrelevant.

“A charity that isn’t future literate is irrelevant at best, a weapon in defence of the status quo at worst,” he told the audience. 

He said part of the problem was that charities were not willing to engage. 

“Charities are barely in this conversation,” he said and described them as some of the “least future-led” organisations he had come across, partly because for some their models discourages investment in innovations that could put them out of business.

“Large parts of the sector are archaic,” he added, and some are “almost proud of it”. 

Stevenson encouraged the sector to be bolder. 

He said that people wanted a more participatory society and that charities are “perfectly placed to take this revolution by the horns and change society if you are prepared to be bold”.

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