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Big Society or Better Society?

New report calls for 'proper discussion' on charitable giving in the UK

Charitable giving in the UK needs powerful new perspectives if the government's hopes for a Big Society are to be successful.

This is the conclusion of a new report from the ESRC Centre for Charitable Giving and Philanthropy (CGAP), a consortium of universities and National Council of Voluntary Organisation (NCVO) co-ordinated at Cass Business School. The report brings together leading CGAP academic experts to discuss the opportunities and challenges for philanthropy under the Big Society umbrella.

Analysis of the government's social investment strategy found it to be paradoxical and fragmented, despite the commitment to the Big Society, with funding cuts undermining the very projects the initiative seeks to encourage.

While philanthropy plays a vital part in society, its contribution is limited by the values of donors. Hence, philanthropic policy and decision-making need to be directed at areas where giving is most needed and in ways that lead to greater inclusion, diversity and social justice.It also states that corporate giving is guided by the values of a company's board and does not necessarily reflect the needs of the local area.

Professor Cathy Pharoah, Co-Director of CGAP said: "Philanthropy is increasingly vital to people at the sharp end of current economic and social upheaval. Our work shows that we need to re-think how to direct our help to where it is most needed. There are many new opportunities to get involved in philanthropy, and in making a difference to society, and the Government and others are supporting some dynamic initiatives. It's about much more than giving money, it's about sharing views, visions and values for a better big society.

The authors argue that the sector needs to focus on entrepreneurial philanthropy. Charitable start-ups answer specific needs within a community and, as such, have the capacity to grow and develop into strong resources which will help to moderate the individualism that characterises much of today's charitable giving.

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