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Why the UK charity sector needs a ‘cultural upheaval’


6 June 2019 at 4:57 pm
Luke Michael
The UK charity sector must overhaul its culture to remedy a major decline in public trust, the chair of the charity commission believes.


Luke Michael | 6 June 2019 at 4:57 pm


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Why the UK charity sector needs a ‘cultural upheaval’
6 June 2019 at 4:57 pm

The UK charity sector must overhaul its culture to remedy a major decline in public trust, the chair of the charity commission believes.

Speaking at a Charity2020 event in London last week, Baroness Stowell said there were “clouds on the horizon” that threatened the sector’s survival.

She said at best, charities were not meeting their potential, and at worst, their place as the primary vehicles of philanthropy and social change in the UK was being challenged.

“Charities needs to be distinctive, special, and – I’ll say it – better – than other types of institutions and parts of society if they are to survive, into the long term, as the vehicles of our better natures,” Stowell said.

“[But] there is evidence of a growing gap between public expectations of charity, of what charity is and means on the one hand, and the attitude and behaviour the public see in some charities as institutions on the other.”

Recent incidents – most notably Oxfam’s sexual misconduct scandal – has seen trust in UK charities drop to its lowest point since 2005, according to the UK Charity Commission research.

It was found the British public trusted charities less than “the man or woman on the street”.

Stowell said she was deeply concerned by the research, which did not align with her future vision for the sector.

“When I look to the future for charities in the years and decades ahead, I want to see a sector that is not just managing to deliver their worthy services in the face of increasing challenges,” she said.

“To achieve this future requires nothing short of cultural upheaval in the sector, and it’s requiring us as regulator to do our work in new and very different, difficult ways.”

Stowell pointed to the merger between Breast Cancer Care and Breast Cancer Now as an example of charities “operating in ways that are true to what we instinctively associate with charity”.

“The two former charities made the difficult decision to merge their operations not because it was convenient… And not because it was a last resort… But because the merger was the right thing to do for the beneficiaries of both charities,” she said.

“[This is] a great example of the charitable spirit, rather than corporate expediency, guiding decisions in charities. I applaud that. It’s exactly what the wider public expect and want to see.”


Luke Michael  |  Journalist  |  @luke_michael96

Luke Michael is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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