Yesterday saw publication of the government white paper on Giving. This will be relevant for anyone working in the volunteering and charitable giving sectors, but its policy implications go much wider than this, with clear new directions emerging for community action, reducing the bureaucracy associated with volunteering, and some key points regarding infrastructure and support.
Some of the important pointers that I took away from the white paper were the emerging trends and direction of travel. For example:
- There is a strong focus on the use of social media, instant messaging, mobile apps etc to increase outreach and enable what I would call ‘micro-volunteering’ — the matching of small amounts of time with specific voluntary tasks (e.g. ‘Slivers of Time’) — and micro-giving (such a mobile donations, ATM giving and the Round Pound schemes (rounding up card payments in stores) previously flagged up by the government.
- There is an emphasis on ‘new models of reciprocity’ — such as user-led time-banks style schemes to enable volunteering credits and exchanges, suggesting a much more self-organising approach to volunteering.
In terms of resources, the following are announced or confirmed:
- There will be a £10m Social Action Fund to help finance schemes to boost giving/volunteering in priority areas/groups.
- There will be a £30m Neighbourhood Matched Fund, ‘unlocked’ by communities matching govt. funds in time, cash, goods, services – e.g. modelled on the Evening Standard Dispossessed Fund.
- There will be a £1m fund open to 30 targeted areas providing grants from £250-£3,000 to help fund healthy activities for older people, including the proposal for recruiting Active at 60 ‘Community Agents’.
As far as ‘infrastructure’ is concerned:
- There will be a 30m fund Local Infrastructure Fund to improve support for frontline charities and community groups. This will be distributed by the BIG Lottery and its key aims will be: more efficient local hubs; modernised services; online resources bank; stronger inter-sector partnerships.
- The Business in the Community-led Business Connectors scheme is confirmed, aimed at businesses helping to source help and mentoring for local charities and groups.
- And in Summer 2011 there will be a new review of the practicalities of Impact reporting.
Much of this is not new, then, and some of what the white paper says is more important for what it tells us about the direction of policy rather than its specifics. The white paper still puts the Big Society philosophy centre-stage. It has a very clear emphasis on the use of voluntary rather than paid effort; it gives new impetus to ‘digital capability’ — to organisations using social media and IT to enable them to outreach more, work more efficiently and invest more resources in delivery as a consequence; and it is clear that there will be a much less formal, more self-regulating, self-generating approach to volunteering.
There are numerous responses to the white paper already in circulation. SEC’s Peter Holbrook has said that the ‘gift economy’ can’t plug all the gaps and that government has to do more to enable social investment.
Third Sector Online covers the white paper here.