This year’s Edelman Trust Barometer tells you something you should already know. That in the UK (and across the Western world) there’s widespread dissatisfaction with the way the world is. That a majority of people now believe that the future will be worse than the past, that ‘the system’ is broken, and that radical change is needed.
These are the numbers, but the alarm bells have already been sounded by Brexit and Trump, Corbyn and Farage. Whatever your politics, you can’t ignore the mood in the air.
Radical thinking is now mainstream, in politics, in business and across the media – particularly online, where new media sources are amplifying voices of dissent and disaffection.
The danger for the charity sector is to misunderstand where we stand in all of this. Which is that many of the UK’s oldest and most trusted charities are now seen as part of that broken establishment, not an antidote to it. This should come as a shock to organisations that were formed to right wrongs, to drive social change, ‘to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable’.
In fact, the disaffected majority are now much more likely to look to business as an agent of change than the charitable sector. Yes, you heard that right. In one poll by Wolff Olins, 41% of people suggested businesses should bring about societal change, 36% plumped for ‘individuals doing good’ and only 16% suggested that charities and social enterprises held the answers.
Looking at the state of fundraising today, does this sound increasingly familiar?
If there is an answer, I’m not sure anyone wants to hear it. It’s for charities to get radical again. To stop cosying up to government, and make some more unexpected partnerships – with businesses, with movements, with individuals. To stand for – and against – something again. To speak the language of discontent, not reassurance. To tell the truth when no-one else does. To talk like humans do. To give people something to join, a way to make a stand, the chance to make an impact.
It’s time for charity CEOs to get arrested again. It’s time to break the law again. To do things that have never been done before.
Ironically, it’s time to get unpopular again. It’s the only way to be popular now.
Image: Down with this sort of thing by Cian Ginty on Flickr.com
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