Julia Unwin: Government won’t solve all our problems, so what are we going to do?

05 Jun 2018 Voices

Stop waiting for the wizard says Julia Unwin, chair of the Civil Society Futures inquiry, as the future of civil society depends on all of us.

Inquiries into the future of civil society are all the rage at the moment. Like the proverbial bus, you wait for a long time and then two come along at once - ours and the government’s own inquiry, that they’ve just consulted on. 

A lot of energy’s just gone into writing brilliant and long responses asking the government to fix things — but we need to stop seeing them as the Wizard of Oz we have to bow before. There is no magician behind the curtain.  

It seems to me that we are all very much in our institutions’ comfort zone in asking the government to solve our problems. As someone told us recently at a Civil Society Futures workshop in Newcastle, “We’re stuck in a parent-child relationship with government as the daddy we go to.” We need to get out of that mindset and work out our own answers.

There are things government should do differently (and where we see them we certainly need to say so).  But many of our difficulties in civil society — from being distant from the people we’re there to serve, to sometimes inadequate governance, to poor quality services, to Chief Exec pay, to declining trust — are of our own making. They are no one else’s responsibility.   

It’s tough but true. The future of civil society depends upon all of us.

And change can’t wait -- are we going to be the problem or the solution?

As the chair of the independent inquiry into the future of civil society, I want to hear — with at least as much energy as has gone into proposals to the government — what every large (and small) organisation is proposing to do themselves to radically reform.

  • We’ve heard power is a problem — people and communities want much, much more — so how are we going to upend the structures of power, both the seen and the unseen?  And how much power will your organisation share yourselves?
  • We’ve heard racial divides are a big concern — so how are you going to do much more to tackle racism and unspoken exclusion... especially if you’re in a majority white sector/organisation?
  • People are terrified that the world is becoming dehumanised by tech — so how are we going   to change that and give people a say?

And there are other, really big questions that the people we are here to serve across our country want answers to and big, big change.  Read them here and respond — it’s even more urgent than any government consultation

Please help us make the right proposals for where next in civil society. We cannot do it without you.

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