A vision for the Office for Civil Society’s future in DCMS

mark-fisherMark Fisher is director of the Office for Civil Society. Prior to this Mark was social justice director in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). Mark was also previously jobseekers and skills director in the DWP, chief executive of the Sector Skills Development Agency and a director of Working Links (Employment) Ltd.

Many of you reading this blog post have probably been involved with the UK’s voluntary and social enterprise sector for many years, and no doubt remember the time before a dedicated Office for Civil Society (OCS) existed.

The Cabinet Office had been OCS’ departmental home ever since its establishment over 10 years ago. This is a long stint in a department that is traditionally associated with being an incubator for new Government initiatives and we are now moving on to our new home, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

Sorting out the details

‘Machinery of government’ changes like this one are not unusual following a reshuffle. There are many big challenges ahead and it is vital that government restructures itself in order to be in the best place to meet them.

Sorting out the details of this can take some time, which is why OCS has remained a little quieter than usual over the past days. As always in government, there are processes to follow but now that a written ministerial statement has been laid before parliament we can officially confirm that OCS in its entirety has moved to DCMS.

OCS has lots in common with DCMS

I understand that changes like this can appear fundamental when looking from the outside in. However, we already share more with DCMS than just our offices.

  • The policy alignment on the Big Lottery Fund has rightly been pointed out by many.
  • DCMS also look after a number of exempt charities such as museums and sports organisations which face similar issues to the rest of civil society.
  • They are focused on innovation and driving growth, something which resonates with our agenda to lead public sector reform through Social Impact Bonds, the Social Value Act, the Commissioning Academy and mutuals, not to mention our work to grow the social investment market and support mission-led business.
  • DCMS’ commercial expertise is evident in the UK’s world-class media and sports industries. I am sure that the experience in this field will help to nurture our thriving social enterprise sector.
  • Their sponsorship of the Information Commissioner’s Office will bring OCS closer to key regulations affecting, for example, charities’ fundraising practices.

New ways to deliver the policy agenda

No doubt this will only be the tip of the iceberg in terms of synergies resulting from our shared ambition to enrich lives and drive growth. DCMS is an incredibly well networked department with links to wider civil society as well as a delivery focus. There will be many new avenues and levers for us to explore in order to effectively deliver our policy agenda from this new home.

Everything from the last 10 years, and more

In this transfer we are taking everything with us that we have built over the last 10 years: the close relationships with external partners, the links and partnerships with colleagues in Cabinet Office and across government, as well as our full policy portfolio.

In Rob Wilson we have a minister who is dedicated to delivering the civil society brief and has a clear record of championing the social economy, something which he has said he intends to remain focused on going forward. He is also determined that OCS will continue its important work to promote social action for people of all ages, grow the social economy, foster informal learning for young people and ensure an independent and sustainable voluntary sector.

Civil society will continue to play an important role in addressing the challenges facing society. Now is the time to take stock, strengthen relationships and make use of the new opportunities the move to DCMS brings to the charity and social enterprise agenda. We are looking forward to having this conversation with all of you over the coming months.

 

Read reflections on the changes from Karl Wilding, NCVO’s public policy and volunteering director.

 

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