Flipping the narrative: Essays on transformation

Here we publish 16 essays from innovative leaders in the social sector. They’re thinking about, and putting into action, new ways of achieving social change for the causes and beneficiaries their organisations exist to serve. This is third output from NPC’s #StateoftheSector programme.

Essays by: Alex Fox, Anni Rowland-Campbell, Charlie Leadbeater, Clare Thomas, Danny Kruger, Darren Murinas, Debbie Pippard, Javed Khan, Jill Halford & Neil Sherlock, Kevin Carey, Maff Potts & Charlie Howard, Mark Atkinson, Neil McInroy, Pat McArdle, Peter Kellner, Sue Bent.

Setting the scene

Why we need boldness and bravery in these times of change

Charles Leadbeater, independent writer, advisor, speaker

In these turbulent times, what does the social sector offer as a means to a better future? Charles outlines four ways the social sector can help preserve humanity in our changing world. Read more.


Strategy and governance

The essays in this section demonstrate that radical organisational or governance change can be strategy-driven and successful.

How we’re building a greater scope for greater impact

Mark Atkinson, CEO, Scope | @MarkAtScope

Earlier this year, leading disability charity Scope announced a radical new strategy that would mean enormous change for the organisation. Here the charity’s chief executive talks through the plans for this transformation, and why it matters. Read more.

Our work must be person-led, not systems-led

Pat McArdle, CEO, Mayday Trust | @patmcardle51

Our system for supporting people when they become homeless is failing, because we fixate on problems rather than on people. Pat realised this when the charity decided to consult people experiencing homelessness about how that system was working for them. This sparked a radical change in the organisation. Here she tells the story of this transformation. Read more.

We need brave, in-your-face, hard-headed governance

Kevin Carey, Chair, RNIB | @RNIB

In this blistering polemic, the Chair of RNIB, gives his views on building better governance. For him, that means rejecting the executive/non-executive divide, injecting commercial sector practices and principles, and fearless on behalf of charities’ customers. Read more.


Relationships with the public

Our essayists address the challenges of the sector’s relationship with the public directly. They argue that we have to understand why trust matters, how charities can build it, and how the sector can break out of its bubble to rebuild its relationship with the public.

Rockets not sausages: Let’s take a ‘trust-plus’ approach to the public

Peter Kellner, Chair, NCVO | @PeterKellner1

Charities trade on trust, so it’s crucial to understand the public mood and work hard to revive their confidence. But, as Peter argues here, we need to go further than this: to get beyond just following regulation to actively and positively working for the public’s trust. Read more.

Charities are underestimating the importance of trust. That’s a problem.

Jill Halford, Director, & Neil Sherlock, Partner, PwC | @pwc_ukgov

NPC’s recent research revealed that charities aren’t taking the volatility of public trust seriously enough. For several years, PwC have been exploring the pivotal role trust plays in society. Here Jill Halford and Neil Sherlock outline why and how charities must understand and build public trust in their organisations. Read more.

We can and must break out of our echo chambers

Debbie Pippard, Head of Programmes, Barrow Cadbury Trust | @debbiepippard

It has never been easier for charities to communicate their message to wide audiences. But with that capability comes a great deal of hard work to get those interactions right. Here Debbie Pippard gives some insights on how The Barrow Cadbury Trust’s is: supporting others to communicate for the greatest impact; elevating the voices of others; and breaking out of their echo chamber. Read more.


Relationships with the state

These essays look to reframe the sector’s interactions with the state and offer potential methods for the forming of new and more productive relationships with a range of actors.

What does putting impact first look like?

Javed Khan, CEO, Barnardo’s | @JavedKhanCEO

Barnardo’s is the largest and oldest national children’s charity. But that doesn’t make it immune to the challenges of working with commissioners to design and deliver services and create an impact. Here its CEO Javed Khan talks through the importance of charities understanding their impact, the challenges that many face, and how Barnardo’s is working to overcome them through strategic partnerships with local government. Read more.

Let’s embrace our difference from other sectors. Only then can everyone improve.

Alex Fox OBE, CEO, Shared Lives Plus | @alexsharedlives

Charities are often encouraged to model themselves on business. Instead, the charity sector must look to its own unique strengths to impact the causes it serves. This means involving users in service design, building social value, and thinking innovatively and creatively about tackling complex social issues. Read more.

We need a new social contract. A local one.

Neil McInroy, CEO, CLES | @nmcinroy

A lot has changed since the post-war founding of the welfare state, and the social contract that went with it is eroding. Neil McInroy argues that to build social justice, we need a new social contract: this includes approaches that are local to place and community; approaches that balance the strengths of the private, public and social sectors, and in which we make sure businesses do their bit. Read more.

Reasons to be cheerful

Danny Kruger, Senior Fellow, Legatum Institute | @danny__kruger

Uncertain times as these can lead to a great deal of pessimism and worry. But, as Danny Kruger argues, with change comes opportunity. There’s lots for charities to get excited about and harness to bring about social change. He outlines what these opportunities are, and what’s needed to make the most of them. Read more.


New networks and resources

According to our research some organisations are responding to challenges by building collaborations with new partners from different sectors and maximising the potential of new resources. These essayists use this as a point of departure to explore innovative ways of working in the sector.

How we faced swingeing cuts but came out swinging

Sue Bent, CEO, Central England Law School | @covlaw

Cuts to legal aid have been devastating for some law centres. For Sue Bent’s organisation the Central England Law Centre this made it a necessity refocus on the organisation’s mission, to harness existing relationships and build new ones, and to maximise their impact. Here she talks through the journey. Read more.

To tackle the country’s divisions, we must start locally

Clare Thomas, Consultant, London’s Giving

It’s a much-pondered topic: the divisions revealed by the Brexit vote and what it will take to heal them. But how can we tackle national polarisation without first addressing it at a local level? Clare Thomas argues this case, with a focus on how funders can lead the way. Read more.

Who represents the human in the digital age?

Anni Rowland-Campbell, Director, Intersticia | @intersticia

Technology is advancing rapidly, taking us on rushing journey where we don’t quite know the destination. Anni Rowland-Campbell takes us through some of the important issues of ‘the digital age’: where we are now and what’s to come. She argues that, if humanity is to be preserved, the philanthropic sector must place itself firmly at the forefront of determining where we’re headed. Read more.

Putting people with lived experience in the lead

Darren Murinas, CEO, Expert Citizens | @darrenmurinas

As ambassadors of lived experience, Expert Citizens encourage decision-makers to listen, learn, and then lead systems change in local services to make them even better. Here the organisation’s CEO shares his experience of connecting user voice, governance, strategy, and service design. He argues that charities still have a long way to go on truly putting people with lived experience in the lead. Read more.

Carry on, crocodiles: Healthy disagreement can help change broken systems

Charlie Howard of The Owls Organisation & Maff Potts of Camerados

Charlie Howard and Maff Potts both lead innovations that insist we think differently about how people and institutions relate to one another. They disagree about how to work with systems, and they use this disagreement to drive creative thinking about tackling perennial social issues. Here, they are in conversation with Michael Little, the curator of The R Word. Read more.


Each essay represents the author’s point of view, rather than the view of NPC or any of our supporters in this programme:



PwC, Barrow Cadbury, Ecclesiastical, Odgers Berndston, Cripplegate Foundation