News & Insight
18th November 2016
Post-Brexit: Eight Ways Charities can Help Heal the Divisions in Society
Yesterday I joined an NPC event at Deloitte’s on the subject of “Can charities heal the divisions in society?” with a focus on the role of charities in a post-Brexit world. Coming from an organisation that works with charities, I was very much hoping the answer would be a firm “Yes”. The real question in my mind was “but how?”.
The panel were:
- David Goodhart, Head of Demography, Immigration and Integration unit at Policy Exchange
- Arvinda Gohil, Chief Executive at Community Links
- Sara Llewellin, Chief Executive at Barrow Cadbury Trust
When picking apart a complex question such as how we can unite again as a society and move forward, the first question to address is where these divisions lie in the first place. The polls have proven, contrary to popular belief, that the question of Brexit cannot be reduced to a north/south divide or a question of age and generation; the country is almost entirely divided in two, with every region and every group divided in its own right, and exceptions to every rule. Five months on from the referendum, it seems that we are no closer to finding any sort of resolution. There continue to be generalisations not only about who these individuals are and what their reasons were, but many people are working on the continued assumption that the values of one group of voters are inherently “wrong” compared to the other. This only serves to leave the UK frozen in a time of division rather than moving forward as a united society.
Another area to address was if the charity sector should be responsible for healing the divisions in society. Something that stood out for me was the divide that seems to be apparent between the charity sector and other sectors. I noticed that those outside the sector often addressed the room as “you”, and referred to “your sector”. However Sara Llewellin (Barrow Cadbury Trust) highlighted the importance of bringing other organisations together to help heal these divisions, and the fact that this was everyone’s responsibility. Creating a better future is what not only the charity sector, but all sectors should be focused on.
This is a deeply divisive issue – however, collectively, we did scratch the surface of some key areas charities can focus on in order to help society heal and move forward.
- Listening over Lecturing – Sara Llewellin pointed out that presenting people with facts and figures in a lecturing format simply doesn’t work as they just don’t believe you; and not feeling listened to is a key problem that lead to divisions growing in the first place. Making assumptions about the realities of those who are marginalised in society, rather than opening a dialogue, is dangerous.
- Bridge the Gap – acting as a bridge between other organisations & services. Corporate initiatives and collaborative approaches may be the way forward, particularly as funding cuts affect a number of smaller initiatives.
- Concentrate on Beneficiaries – Arvinda Gohil emphasised the importance of maintaining empathy and creating an environment where people are listened to and feel helped, even when charities are under pressure in an increasingly difficult climate.
- Champion a Positive Agenda – highlighting that it is everyone’s responsibility to heal these divisions and help to get that mentality embedded across all services.
- Focus on Funding – while previously smaller charities have always struggled in tough economic times, this time it is medium-sized charities who have had to adapt in the biggest changes to funding. As institutional funding runs dry, it is up to the charities themselves to find new sources.
- Encourage Philanthropy – while we often look to the wealthiest in society to step up and donate, we all share the responsibility to heal divisions in order to move forward as a society; not just through giving money but also through giving time, expertise and innovative solutions.
- Provide Opportunity – Efforts should be concentrated on finding ways to empower those who have been left behind in society – charities can often provide opportunity in areas that more deprived communities otherwise wouldn’t be able to access, such as higher education, better job opportunities and services.
- Involve Trustees – as the business of running a non-profit organisation becomes increasingly complex, good governance is imperative.