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Where next for civil society?

October 15th 2019

The Bevan Foundation and Electoral Reform Society Cymru joined forces last week to discuss the future of civil society in Wales.

Devolution has transformed Wales’ institutions, but there have been fewer changes in the last 20 years in Welsh civil society and in particular among its charities and community groups. This seminar discussed whether these bodies had kept pace and how they might develop in the future.

Bevan Foundation Director, Victoria Winckler, opened the seminar by highlighting the sheer shortfall in the number of charities and their size relative to other parts of the UK. She also pointed out that deprived areas had the fewest charities and lowest levels of volunteering. Looking ahead, she summarised the challenges that community groups and charities face.

In a panel discussion, Sioned Pearce from WISERD described in more detail the issues that charities need to deal with, and said that ‘new managerialism’ was shaping relationships between Welsh Government and civil society. Chisomo Phiri made a pwerful case for Wales’ third sector being more diverse: people from BME backgrounds are simply not visible. Alun Davies AM set the room alight with his trenchant comments about Welsh Government, the Assembly and civil society. He urged the third sector to be more critical and demanding. Last, Will Sullivan from ERS put the challenges facing civil society in the wider context of challenges to democracy.

Delegates then got involved in lively discussions about what they had just heard, and were tasked with developing two recommendations for change. After each table reported back and pitched their ideas, the room discussed their feasibility and voted on them.  Ideas included:

  • employers providing one day a month of volunteer leave
  • people giving evidence to Assembly inquiries being asked to reveal their funding and political affiliations if any
  • better education and training for people to understand government.

The recommendations are now available for discussion and comment – it can be seen here.




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