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The future of doing good

How do we create social value in the future ?
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Young children and older people together, making crafts

The context for 'doing good' - creating social value - has changed beyond recognition in recent years. We've experienced financial crisis and global economic slowdown; corporate scandals in industries like banking; government significantly cutting back on public spending; and charities facing increasing debate about their role in creating a good society.

It’s in this context that we at the Big Lottery Fund hope to facilitate a debate across the whole of society – communities, charities, social enterprises, businesses and the state – about how ‘doing good’ should evolve in the future. What does it mean for how we support people to build better communities, and improve their own lives and the lives of those who live around them? What’s the role of charities, businesses, government and communities – and how should we all be working together?

We don’t have the answers, but we think there are some important questions we should all be asking ourselves about how we create good. They’re by no means exhaustive: others will have plenty more questions to contribute. We hope the Future of Doing Good report will provoke a debate and help get the conversation started

  • Who gets to say what ‘doing good’ looks like? Is it the people and communities who we are trying to support? Or the people with the money – government, charitable foundations and businesses? Who should it be?
  • Is doing good about fixing people’s needs, or building strengths? To what extent are these mutually exclusive: if we see doing good as about fixing needs, does it undermine our ability to support them to improve their own lives?
  • Do we focus too much on the organisations that ‘do good’, like charities, voluntary groups and social enterprises, and not enough on the bigger system they work in, and building the citizens of the future? Do we have the right balance between delivering activities, and focusing on changing the world we live in?
  • How do you measure ‘doing good’? Measuring is difficult and has costs, but if we don’t, we don’t even know if we’re doing harm – something which government, social sector organisations and businesses with the best of intentions have sometimes done in the past.
  • How do we get better at ‘doing good’? Will that happen through competing for contracts? How do communities, public services, government and social sector organisations who want to do good get better at it – what should that look like? How do we develop a more honest approach to learning not just from successes, but failures?
  • Accountability for ‘doing good’? Who holds society accountable for ‘doing good’? Is it regulatory bodies, or can they only ensure minimum standards? Is it all about the stick, or does there need to be some carrot?
  • How can we harness technology to do more good? Why hasn’t technology yet played the same disruptive role in ‘doing good’ as it has in other areas of life?
  • The future of charity… What it means to be a charity in the 21st century is under greater scrutiny than ever. Has the sector done enough to lead the debate? Are we honest enough about the role of charities has changed – and confident enough to defend the role of charities where needed, but also to reflect on how the charity sector might need to change? How should charities respond to a challenging fundraising climate? How can it restore trust in the light of recent public challenge to the sector’s integrity? What sets apart a charity of the future delivering big government contracts and a large private sector contractor?
  • The changing state… What does the changing state mean for how we ‘do good’? How can the social sector help the state do more with less, and how can we make devolution work for people and communities?
  • Businesses… businesses create positive and negative social value. Some businesses are set up in order to create positive social value before profit, or alongside profit. How can we encourage more of that?
  • Collaboration between communities, social sector organisations, business and government… given the relatively tiny size of the social sector, how can it work to change the world through business and government, as well as working with communities directly? What needs to change for that to happen? How can all three sectors shape what each other do for the better, rather than get captured by each other’s worst features?

Download the full report

Read The Future of Doing Good blog