The Big Society: a new policy environment for the third sector?

Working paper 82 (June 2012)

Most countries around the world recognise the importance of third sector, non-government or voluntary organisations to welfare provision. In Europe, and in particular in the UK, this role has become the focus of more direct policy engagement, and has led to debate about the relationship between the state and the third sector. In the UK, this relationship developed significantly under the Labour Governments of the early twenty-first century and is now being recast under the new Coalition government.

This Working Paper updates the analysis of the Coalition government’s Big Society agenda, first published in 2010. It explores the policy context for the Big Society initiative and the key features of the policy programme developed by the Coalition since 2010. It outlines some of the contradictions and challenges within this policy programme, and for the relationship between the third sector and the state more generally.

We also note that the Big Society is an English political discourse with different policy developments now taking place within the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Research contact

Pete Alcock