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We should be taking advantage of Britain’s faith communities to advance social welfare

The Public Service Reform White Paper is now due in July. However, many charities wonder who among their
number has the skill and scale to benefit from the opportunities that could
come our way?

A creative response to this conundrum is a more imaginative
engagement with faith based institutions than has previously been attempted in
Britain.

Many speak of
‘thinking globally, acting
locally’. In the NGO sector this has meant creating international brands. Oxfam
and the Red Cross operate trans-nationally. Action Aid deliberately relocated
its HQ to Johannesburg. These networks have the capacity to accept large
government contracts and the scale to receive significant philanthropy. Mercy Corps Scotland‘s HQ, for example,
received $19 million from the Gates
Foundation
to buy a commercial bank, turn it into a social enterprise and
create Indonesia’s largest micro-finance institution.

In the UK, private sector outsourcing firms are well
established. Nevertheless, in pursuing the worthy goal of returning bureaucratic
revenues to civic control it would be a pity if mid-sized charities were squeezed by the currently superior
access to cashflow of such companies. Meanwhile, localism might not be
enhanced by an unreflective drift to
dominant monopoly private provision. This is where global links should
be mainstreamed.

Britain’s faith communities sit at the heart of
international networks
incredibly experienced in
advancing social welfare. Jewish foundations drive many social innovations. The
Catholic Caritas Germany provides 24,000 hospitals, community projects, and
social services schemes. Catholic
Charities
is America’s largest non-profit, while Caritas’ global revenues are
£5.5 billion, funding projects without discrimination. Meanwhile,
Australian Presbyterian Mission
Care has already done business
with our Department for Work and Pensions.

The Prime Minister rightly champions corporates who invest
in Britain. Couldn’t the Cabinet Office now organise inward social trade missions from large faith-based
and other charities to come to work with their indigenous allies? Caritas could
build the capacity of Catholic charities here while others could work alongside
Anglican and evangelical networks. Transferring international knowledge and
resources between like-minded communities could facilitate a step change in
capacity and innovation while also inspiring new UK giving to build on the £0.6
billion in unrestricted donations
already found in the Christian
community.

Or does the argument that the charities do not exist to take
advantage of the White paper really amount to a hope that they do not? If the NGO sector can internationalise
at speed and quality, why not the domestic sector too?

Francis Davis is a Wessex based social entrepreneur who has
advised Coalition and Labour Ministers and has his own blog