The Big Society Debate

The Big Society Debate

A New Agenda for Social Welfare?

Edited by Armine Ishkanian and Simon Szreter

The book is divided into two sections, history and policy, which together provide readers with a historically grounded, internationally informed, and multidisciplinary analysis of the Big Society policies. The introduction and conclusion tie the strands together, providing a coherent analysis of the key issues in both sections. Various chapters in this study examine the limitations and consider the challenges involved in translating the ideas of the Big Society agenda into practice.

Chapter 10: Government, Foundations and Big Society: Will You be my Friend?

Diana Leat

Subjects: social policy and sociology, comparative social policy


Diana Leat INTRODUCTION: PHILANTHROPY, BIG SOCIETY AND THE ‘NEW GOVERNANCE’ The philanthropic world is changing. The headline news is that philanthropy is fashionable among the mega-rich, with followers including Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Ted Turner, Oprah Winfrey and Madonna. In the context of philanthropy, there are those who want to be giving friends and then there are those who want to be taking friends. Having long been of little interest to governments in many countries, philanthropy is now reluctantly auditioning for the role of knight in shining armour riding to the rescue of cash-strapped governments. In England, for example, government has great hopes for philanthropy as evidenced in Big Society rhetoric and the Giving White Paper. In the US, state governments are currently going even further to access support from philanthropic foundations by creating ‘philanthropy liaison’ offices. In parts of Australia, meanwhile, creation of new lookalike philanthropic foundations is one of the new tools being used to raise money and channel it into public priorities. In England, the current ‘discovery’, or perhaps rediscovery, of philanthropy is part of the wider Big Society project which, in turn, is arguably part of a more fundamental new governance discourse. This new discourse includes the notion that it is necessary to rethink governing, policy and administration in the light of changing social processes. Problems and solutions, so the argument goes, no longer conform to the established boundaries of policy and administration, thus requiring a change in both. The ‘new governance’ for the ‘network society’...

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