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19 April 2018

Civil society and the church: have your say

Civil society and the church: have your say

The Government has launched a consultation about civil society and what can be done to strengthen it.  

Civil society is a broad term, and is described in the consultation as ‘all those outside of the public sector, who share the mission of building a stronger society and improving lives.’ 

In the UK, the Christian church is right at the heart of this mission. Tracey Crouch, the minister for civil society, has been immensely positive about the work churches do, saying that they should be free to speak about the faith that motivates them, and praising their local networks and knowledge. From night shelters to food banks, from engaging with young people to equipping local leaders, churches are a force for good, and have much experience in local social action. So how can this experience shape the Government’s strategy? 

The consultation is split into four sections. The first section is headed ‘Our civil society’. It asks about the strengths of civil society in general in the UK, and for suggestions on how the Government may strengthen it, help to build public trust in it, and give it a stronger role in shaping Government policy. What kind of support would help Christian social action projects you are involved in? How could they influence local decision-making in a better way? 

The second section is headed ‘People’ and asks for examples of projects that have enabled more people to play an active role in society. It also offers a list of suggested policies to help increase such involvement, such as helping employers to encourage volunteering, and supporting people who take on roles like school governor or charity trustee. If you have success stories of this, or have other ideas about getting more people involved in social action, this is the place for them.  

The Government is particularly interested in how to involve young people in social action, asking what policies or emphases would help bring this about. In this area they’re especially looking at the experience of disadvantaged communities and at young people’s political involvement. If you are involved in youth projects or have ideas about such civic engagement for young people, do set out your experience here. 

The third section is headed ‘Partnership’. It explores ways in which charities and community groups have cooperated with public and private sector groups towards shared goals. Again, there’s a particular interest in youth provision and collaboration. This section also covers new models of funding, including crowdfunding and online fundraising. Do you have experience in projects that collaborate with local government or businesses? Or do you have any ideas about how social action projects may be funded?  

The final section is headed ‘Place’ and asks how to enable more people work together on the places in which they live and work. Particular interests include how to break down barriers in our communities, and how to build strong local public services. Do you have any experience of social action projects that have improved your local area, such as charities running supplementary services for those in need, or reaching out across divides? 

So what can you do in response to this call for evidence? Here are five suggestions: 

1. Pray – for all those involved in this consultation at the department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, including the minister, Tracey Crouch. Civil society is vitally important part of our national life, and the Government’s work in this area will have a significant impact on churches and their work.  

2. Read What kind of society? It sets out a Christian vision for what our society could look like, and describes some case studies of how Christians are already working on this. It may give you some ideas as you respond to the consultation.  

3. Respond to the consultation. The consultation page can be found here. If you have any experience relevant to the questions above, or know someone else who does, do make your voice heard. Remember our suggestions about responding to consultations here.  

4. Host an event. On the call for evidence page above, you’ll also find some resources for hosting a discussion about the questions. Why not bring together some volunteers who are active in different areas in your community and share your views together?  

5. Get in touch. Our public policy team will be responding on behalf of the Evangelical Alliance. If you have any concrete examples of what the church is doing in your area that you’d like us to include, send them to j.coleby@eauk.org.