If you’re British, 2021 is probably going to be a very difficult year. If you work in or with Civil Society, it is probably going to be an extremely difficult year.
So what are the three top issues to look out for in 2021?
Access: As the pandemic continues to grip our societies and provision of services is interrupted, we will see a growing number of organisations struggle, merge, or disappear. Beneficiary access to support, service provision, training and development is already interrupted and will continue to be for the s foreseeable future. Civil society and governments need to be careful about how gaps in services and support are addressed. Anything that increases beneficiary barriers to support or services is going to result in more inequality, greater poverty and even worse health and mental health outcomes, ultimately dragging all of society down. Whatever else changes, access to support and services has to remain central to how we view our societies, has to remain free wherever possible and has to be de-stigmatised.
Resilience: 2021 has started off with a real kicker, building on the pressures piled upon us by 2020. Organisations are generally not set up to manage the levels of disruption for the length of time that we have seen over the past twelve months. Government support has not reached all types of organisations and there is more emphasis on making loans available rather than grants, which has the potential to increase debt and vulnerability of organisations across the economy. Which organisations get to survive and how they do it will determine the size, shape and effectiveness of civil society for years to come. Equally, the ability of communities to engage with policy makers, funders and other stakeholders will be reduced as organisations contract or disappear.
Participation (or Human Capital): When there are so many big issues coming together at the same time, it is easy to try and take short cuts to keep things going. This is often when stakeholder participation is scaled back. But the one thing we absolutely cannot allow to happen is for less beneficiary or community engagement to happen. It might seem like the very last thing to be focusing on right now, but without proper engagement and participation governments and civil society organisations are in danger of disengaging communities and making participation, inclusion and ultimately social cohesion that much harder to achieve.
Do these three issues strike a chord in your work? What are your pressing issues and how are you going to tackle them?