Big Ideas for the UK’s Big Society
10 January 2011 at 3:55 pm
The UK Cabinet Office has published the Government’s initial ideas for developing a stronger culture of giving time and money as part of its Big Society plan.
The Government’s Giving Green Paper proposes a new role for government as a facilitator of giving as part of the Big Society plan and aims to make it easier for philanthropists, volunteers and Not for Profit organisations to form partnerships.
|British Prime Minister David Cameron. Flickr Image: Some rights reserved by conservativeparty|
The UK Government says it wants to develop low-cost but highly effective ideas for large organisations to support charities. Initial ideas include allowing donations to partner charities on government websites and another is to open up buildings that are under-used to charitable activities.
The ‘Big Society’ was one of the key policy ideas of the UK Conservative party’s 2010 election platform, and is a part if the agenda for the UK Coalition Government.
Since it was launched, the Big Society plan has been the focus of much debate, as the cash strapped UK Government looks at ways to reduce funding to the Not for Profit sector while encouraging individual action through philanthropy, volunteering and encouraging social enterprise.
The Big Society plan has been dogged by claims it is a way of dressing up wide-ranging cuts to the Not for Profit sector, and more widely by general confusion as to what the Big Society really is, and what it will look like in practice. Pro Bono Australia News reported in October 2010 that 60% of Not for Profit sector staff in the UK thought the Big Society Policy was a good thing, however 65% said they do not have a good understanding of what it is.
The Giving Green Paper’s include a range of major policy proposals including:
- A £50 million Community First Fund to invest in local savings schemes that pay out small grants well into the future in the most deprived areas. It will match contributions from local donors to encourage more giving.
- A £10 million Volunteer Match Fund to double the benefit of private donations to voluntary projects.
- Harnessing new technology – including working with mobile phone companies to encourage charitable phone applications. Also talking to banks about donations through ATMs and widening access for people to make small charitable donations when paying for goods by cards.
- Encouraging a new focus on reciprocal giving with ideas like setting up an ebay style online community where people can trade time.
- A government review of the relationship between financial incentives and giving.
- Support to encourage charitable giving in schools.
Launching the Giving Green Paper, Minister of the Cabinet Francis Maude says that Big Society is about creating a country in which people are in control. People giving time, money, assets, skills and knowledge all drive social action and help make life better for all.
Maude says the Giving Green Paper offers practical common sense ways to boost charitable giving.
Maude says the UK Government is arguing for new social attitudes that celebrate giving and while talking about what people do for good is often seen as vulgar, sharing experiences can inspire others.
He says giving is too often caricaturised as worthy and selfless, a one way street, but there’s nothing wrong with doing things for each other and repaying kindnesses.
Download the Giving Green Paper here.