Briefing: civil society strategy

Published: government’s civil society strategy

In February 2018, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport launched a consultation on its strategy towards civil society. On 8 August 2018, the government published its strategy in full (executive summary also available), which aims to set out how government will work with and support civil society in the years to come.

What did ACEVO ask for?

Our response to the consultation primarily focused on our four policy pillars: regulation, the freedom to campaign, diversity and inclusion, and commissioning. We also highlighted the need to invest in areas such as digital and leadership development, and submitted a joint letter to Tracey Crouch, minister for charities, emphasising that the strategy should commit to ongoing and meaningful engagement with the sector.

Summary of the civil society strategy

The strategy is split into five foundations of social value, summarised by the illustration below.


The government’s vision is for all people to be able to thrive, connect with each other, and give back to their communities. It has committed to:

  • Running the Place Based Social Action programme with the Big Lottery Fund, which helps communities to collaborate with local private and public sector organisations to create a shared vision for the place they live and work in.
  • Funding the training of 3500 Community Organisers, who will listen to concerns and connect people in their local community.
  • Allocating £90 million to a youth initiative, delivered by a new organisation which will operate independently of government.


The government’s vision is that in the future the public sector will focus more on the needs of places and take a more collaborative approach. It commits to:

  • Launching a new Innovation in Democracy programme which will pilot participatory democracy approaches in local communities.
  • Designing a programme to look at more sustainable community spaces to ensure more communities have access to high-quality facilities.
  • Continuing initiatives that will create opportunities for civil society and communities, such as the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, Local Industrial Strategies and Local Enterprise Partnerships.
  • Devoting £35 million of dormant accounts funding and developing new models of community funding.

The social sector

The government is keen to work alongside the social sector, defined as charities and social enterprises, to help the sector to thrive, increase public trust and find new ways to resource and deliver work. It commits to:

  • Renewing its commitment to the principles of the Compact, a document which sets out a series of principles and commitments governing the relationship between the sector and government.
  • Working with civil society, the Electoral Commission and the Charity Commission to explore what non-legislative steps could strengthen civil society’s confidence in speaking out.
  • Establishing a cross-government group to work with civil society on policy-making, as well as working with civil society and the Charity Commission to increase diversity among trustees.
  • Releasing at least £20 million from inactive charitable trusts to help community organisations.
  • Exploring how best to use and embed digital in the sector.

The private sector

The government wants to see leading businesses put social and environmental responsibility at the heart of what they do. It commits to:

  • Establishing a responsible business Leadership Group.
  • Building on the Inclusive Economy Partnership to support greater collaboration between business, civil society organisations and government departments.
  • Working with the Big Lottery Fund to use £55 million from dormant accounts to fund a new, independent organisation which will aim to tackle financial exclusion.

The public sector

The government’s vision for public services in the modern era is one of collaborative commissioning. It commits to:

  • Supporting the spread of Citizen Commissioners, local people supported to make commissioning decisions on behalf of their communities.
  • Extending support to public sector teams aspiring to form mutuals.
  • Reviving grant-making in order to broaden the range of funding options for community initiatives.
  • Increasing social value commissioning across all levels of government and improving the use of the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012.

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