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Making Good Society

Making Good Society

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The report explores how civil society activity can help: grow a more civil economy; enable a rapid and just transition to a low carbon economy; democratise media ownership and content; and grow participatory and deliberative democracy.
The report explores how civil society activity can help: grow a more civil economy; enable a rapid and just transition to a low carbon economy; democratise media ownership and content; and grow participatory and deliberative democracy.

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Published by: Daisy on Aug 09, 2010
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Commission of Inquiry into the Future of Civil Society in the UK and Ireland
 w w w . f u t u r e s f o r c  i v  i  l s o c  i e t y . o r g 
Final report of the Commission of Inquiry into theFuture of Civil Society in the UK and Ireland
Making good society
Supported by
 About the Commission of Inquiry into the Future of Civil Societyin the UK and Ireland
 The Commission of Inquiry into the Future of Civil Society was established to explore how civil societycould be strengthened in the UK and Ireland. The Inquiry Commission was chaired by Geoff Mulgan andwas also informed by an International Advisory Group.
The objectives of the Inquiry were to:
explore the possible threats to and opportunities for civil society, looking out to 2025
identify how policy and practice can be enhanced to help strengthen civil society
enhance the ability of civil society associations to shape the future. The Inquiry Commission’s work began with an extensive futures exercise to explore possible futures forcivil society. Drawing on the ndings of the futures work, which are documented in two reports,
The Shapeof Civil Society to Come
Scenarios for Civil Society 
, the Inquiry Commission agreed to explore thecurrent and possible future roles of civil society associations in relation to the following themes:
Growing a more civil economy A rapid and just transition to a low carbon economyDemocratising media ownership and contentGrowing participatory and deliberative democracy
 This report documents the ndings of the Inquiry’s work and of the Commission’s deliberations.For further information about the Inquiry and to download related reports go to
or contact us on
+44 (0)1383 721 445
info@carnegieuk.orgPublished on behalf of the Commission by the Carnegie UK Trustwww.carnegieuktrust.org.uk
March 2010ISBN 978-0-900259-67-8Design by Falconbury
Front cover image: An army of thousands of one foot high people were planted in the formation of a giant saltire outside theScottish Parliament calling for climate action – Edinburgh, April 2009:
Image courtesy of Friends of the Earth Scotland 
Disclaimer: the Carnegie UK Trust normally does not take institutional positions on public policy issues; theviews presented in this publication represent the ndings of the Inquiry’s work or the views of the InquiryCommission and do not necessarily reect the views of the Trust (its ofcers, staff, trustees).While every attempt has been made to ensure the accuracy, reliability and timeliness of the informationcontained in this report, all such information is provided ‘as is’ and therefore the authors cannot guaranteethe validity of any information that may have changed between writing and the time of publication.
 Take a few streets in a typical town in Donegal orDenbighshire, Devon or Dumfriesshire and you don’tneed to look far to nd civil society. Whether it’s visibleon the streets or behind closed doors, every communityhosts an extraordinary array of civil society activityincluding sports clubs, care for family members or localresidents, homework clubs and support networks. As individuals, many of us are active in local groups,charities, in churches, mosques and temples or tradeunions. We play our part in campaigns to end povertyor combat climate change. As consumers we supportethical products offered by co-operatives or socialenterprises.Civil society is not governed by prot or power butby values and enthusiasms – a word that originallymeant the god within us. Some of us are inspired byfrustration and anger, others by hope, and others still byfun. Together, the many parts of civil society contributeenormously to our everyday quality of life. The good news is that right across the UK and Irelandthe daily life of civil society activity is thriving – withno signs of long-term decline and decay, or for thatmatter any rise in selshness and other ills, despite thepressures of recession. Civil society is made up of amyriad of circles of freedom and circles of cooperationthat have proved to be remarkably resilient.But it’s also clear that civil society is less than it couldbe. For a century or more it has been pushed to themargins by commerce and the state, which haveclaimed the lion’s share of resources and power. It hasbeen paid lip-service, but generally neglected. And ithas lost ground in areas it was once strong, like nanceor childhood. Today we can see the convergence of both long andshort-term trends which point to a major change inthe position of civil society associations. The long-termtrends can be traced back to many sources – the risingeconomic importance of charities and social enterprisesglobally; the counterculture of the 1960s; the globalowering of civil society activity in the wake of 1989 andthe fall of the Berlin Wall; declining trust in politics andthe rise of a culture in which people seek and expectexpression and voice. The short-term push to strengthen civil society comesfrom the coincidence of three crises: the nancial crisisand its economic effects, which have sharply reducedthe status and condence of market liberalism; theecological crisis, which has moved centre-stage asnever before in the wake of the Copenhagen Summitat the end of 2009; and a crisis of political condence,particularly in Britain, because of an accumulation of events, including most recently the scandal of MPs’expenses.Each crisis poses very different questions. But itis now impossible to imagine plausible answers tothese questions which do not involve a widened rolefor civil society associations – as the complementto representative democracy; as the place where adifferent kind of economy takes shape, or is beingrediscovered; and as the site for everyday solutions tothe effects of rising carbon emissions. This makes now a remarkable time of opportunity. Weneed to set our sights far beyond the narrow argumentsabout contracts or scal treatment for the voluntarysector, and look instead at how civil society activity canshape our world, and how we can make the transitionfrom an age of ‘me’ to an age of ‘we’. Civil society wasborn out of the idea that we do best when we workwith others, and when we understand our interests asshared with others. That idea is more relevant than everin an intimately interconnected world.Here the Inquiry Commission sets out an argumentfor putting civil society at the centre. It’s not ablueprint or a detailed roadmap – but describes thedirections of change, the critical choices, and themany things which could be done by governments,foundations, corporations and civil society associationsthemselves to make the most of the moment. Whilethe Commission fully endorses the broad direction of travel outlined in this report, we do not pretend that

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