The Road Ahead 2022: Finding a new practicality through uncertain times

Today we’ve launched the Road Ahead 2022 – our annual analysis of the biggest trends, opportunities and events that will impact charities and volunteering in the year ahead.

This is our second Road Ahead publication during the pandemic, a period which has made some, perhaps rightly, question the usefulness of such predictions.

In the face of ongoing volatility, we’ve identified areas of stability as well as trends that go beyond the pandemic. We hope this helps leaders trustees, and communities make informed decisions about their futures.

More political stability

After snap elections in both 2017 and 2019, we think the political cycle will become more stable, even if things look challenging for the government. With a healthy majority, we don’t predict an election before 2023.

Parties will start thinking about the long-term policy agendas (and eventual manifestos) and charities will want to do the same. Campaigners need to adapt, if they haven’t done already, to a government with a large majority in the House of Commons. This means a need for new tactics to achieve their desired results.

Though there are repeated attempts to divide us, polling shows that our society is far more united than is often portrayed – especially on issues like racial justice, LGBTQ+ rights, and refugees.

Where divides exist, charities can play a crucial role in bringing people together. We must also be braver in calling out those that seek to agitate divides for political gain.

A tighter squeeze on living costs

In 2021, the UK economy outperformed expectations. Strong economic growth  suggests more people are doing more work, earning more money, and paying more tax.

But rising prices, higher bills, and inflation will put pressure on household finances. Wages and benefits will not rise fast enough to meet new costs, and lower-income families will be hit hardest. Taken together, it will cost charities more to pay staff, run premises, and deliver services.

Building up our social fabric

Much has been made of the government’s ambition to ‘level up’ communities, but the vast majority of funding has been committed to physical infrastructure projects, like trains, roads and broadband.

Communities understand that it’s social infrastructure – the places, spaces and opportunities we share – that create togetherness, spark ideas, and foster pride in where we live.

In the same way that our relationships turn a house into a home, so strong social fabric turns a set of buildings into a community. Without it, that new road will only be seen as a route out.

Security and machines

The roll-out of the fifth generation technology standard (5G) by major mobile networks will transform internet speeds, opening new opportunities. Though immediately helping communities be better connected, charities should think ahead to how artificial intelligence and machine learning could transform their work.

Imagine using:

  • drones to monitor and maintain natural environments
  • home-based devices to manage health by social care organisations
  • augmented reality experiences in the arts sector.

Though we’ve made huge leaps in digital skills since the start of the pandemic, this will be a continual area of learning and development for the sector.

Shifting role on climate change

In 2021, the UN climate talks in Glasgow was a major political moment. Notably, the debate has shifted: we’re no longer talking about if climate change is real, we’re talking about what we’re going to do about it.

As charities, how will we get to net-zero? What will our communities need from us to adapt? With eight years to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, and enormous reductions in carbon emissions needed to get to net-zero, we’ll need to dramatically upskill our sector to respond and lead.

Legal implications for charities

Charities should consider carefully how covid-19 may change the way they operate. Many charities will want to allow home or hybrid working, but it will be important to develop policies to ensure fair treatment, to avoid employment law disputes later on.

From April 2022, it will be mandatory for workers in some sectors to be fully vaccinated against covid-19, which could cause challenges.

A different road ahead

Though it might feel like it, the start of 2022 isn’t the same as January 2021. Though covid-19 will continue to dominate our lives, we’re better equipped to deal with new variants and waves of infection than at any point during the pandemic. We think that for many, 2022 will be easier, freer and more open.

 

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Alex joined NCVO in March 2017 as one of our lead consultants and is now head of networks and influencing. Alex has worked extensively in the youth sector, particularly within international development, and worked with UNICEF, Youth Policy Labs, the National Youth Agency and the British Youth Council. Alex was previously a trustee at Girlguiding UK, The Diana Award and a member of an advisory committee at the CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation. Alex founded an LBGTQ+ organisation supporting youth activists around the world.

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