Multi-level Processes and Organized Civil Society
Edited by Jeremy Kendall
Chapter 4: The UK: Ingredients in a Hyperactive Horizontal Policy Environment
Jeremy Kendall 4.1 Introduction At least in quantitative terms, Britain (and its component nations) is close to average in terms of the economic and social significance of its third sector, whichever definition one uses (Kendall, 2003; CIRIEC International, 2008). Yet from a comparative perspective in terms of active cross-cutting national policy-making regarding the sector per se over the last decade, the UK emerges as truly exceptional. The sector had already grown economically at a comparatively rapid rate in the early 1990s, driven essentially by stateled policy reform within specific vertical fields (such as social housing and social care). But the last ten years have witnessed unprecedented, deliberate and sustained horizontal policy hyperactivity. This has built on a legacy of much more low-key, historically uninterrupted specialist institution-building inherited from the twentieth century and before. The result has been a uniquely British pattern of continuity and change. Latterly, the gathering of policy momentum in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland has been extraordinary, as has the sustained positioning of this institutional terrain on the agendas of some of the most powerful interests in the British state.1 The focal point for most of this effort for most of this period has been the ‘voluntary and community sector’. This has built rapidly upon a long-standing tradition of legal regulation in relation to charities, and more broadly, formulations of ‘the voluntary sector’ and ‘community groups’ as collective policy actors. Much more novel has been the arrival of the notions of ‘social enterprise’ and ‘third sector’,...
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