Civil Society Futures' final report: people's desire for power and control must be answered

We have been tracking reports from the Civil Society Futures project throughout our nearly two years of publishing on the Daily Alternative - and they have now produced their final report (PDF), titled “The Story of our Future” (laid out also on the front of their site).

It’s an impressive document and presentation, with many accessible entry points - not least their lovely videos based on testimony from audio interviews, like this:

Their themes of inquiry are below - each link represents a few years of blogging on these matters, an excellent resource of examples and case-studies:

A huge ambit - and much that many readers will recognise from our own agenda. As the early responses page shows, the intended audience for this CSF report is the leadership class of the “civil society sector” - many executive directors and CEOs are quoted.

It would seem from the final recommendations that the message to them is, generally, to redouble efforts to redistribute power and resources - like many in this field, the political result of Brexit and the general populist tumult hangs over all these considerations.

They suggest that all who recognise themselves as involved in civil society commit to a “PACT” - a mnemonic for the following values:

Power: A great power shift. The CSF embraces all the cutting edge forms of participation here - citizens assembly, participatory grant-making

Accountability: Turning away from meaning accountable “primarily to funders” to “primarily to people and communities”

Connection: No doubt the strongest category affected by Brexit. Urges civil society activists to return to this task of reducing tension and polarisation as their central task

Trust: Again, very much directed at the behaviour of the executives of voluntary and civil organisation who have betrayed the trust of those relying on them.

They have created - of course - a tool-kit which can guide civil society actors in how they might manifest this PACT in their everyday vocabulary and practice.

Civil Society is a tag that we have constantly explored here. The Scottish political philosopher Tom Nairn once identified the term as the name that the Scottish Enlightenment thinkers in the 18th century (particularly Adam Ferguson) gave to the society that remained after the Union with England, and was yet to be regained as a national polity.

So civil society has always had a loose, capacious and supportive feel to it - a zone that was, from the very beginning, intended to connect and assuage opposed positions. It is also interesting to note how the idea of the “commons” - one even older than civil society - is now coming to the fore, as a way to think about how citizens might consciously join together to manage their resources. (Seven mentions found in CSF).

But it’s a substantial and accessible piece of work - one to add to events like Open Coop, CtrlShift, or Common Platform, indicating that the scattered forces of civil society are beginning to come together to find a new common purpose - under conditions of increasing environmental, social, cultural and technological urgency.