The government’s Social Action Fund is at odds with its own ‘big society’ policies

Last week I circulated an email to advise people that Third Sector Online had just announced that the second tranche of the Social Action Fund was about to open to applications.

The announcement included a quote from someone at the Social Investment Business, the distributors of the fund: “We aim to fund well-established national or regional organisations, usually under large branded schemes. A strong preference is given to schemes that have agreed match funding,” they said.

I subsequently received an email from Marcia Lewinson at Women Acting in Today’s Society that was a heart-felt howl of frustration. She said:

The above  says it all! Where is the support for organisations that have  local relationships, understand local need, have the ability to  recruit and retain volunteers  and can do all of the above?

Small independent charities and business are getting squeezed out of the market!!  Frustrated…

Marcia is absolutely right, of course. The more I thought about it the more I found myself thinking how at odds all this guff about ‘scale’, ‘replicability’ and big ‘branded schemes’ is with David Cameron’s aspirations for the ‘big society’.

It betrays the same kind of obsession with management consultancy-speak and grand schemes that dominated government thinking in the 1980s.

If you share Marcia’s frustration then why not write to Nick Hurd and tell him? Writing to the Social Investment Business is unlikely to change anything because it is doing what the government has told it to, but voicing your frustration to the Minister responsible might just help.

This really does seem one of those instances where policy implementation is glaringly at odds with the aspirations that prompted it in the first place.



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