Scaling up for the Big Society

The new government faces entrenched social problems and the challenge of reducing the budget deficit. Its Big Society idea seems to imply a beguilingly simple solution: use charities to fix social problems and at the same time reduce government borrowing. But is the solution as simple as that? Can charities really offer sustainable and scalable solutions to tackling the toughest problems in our country?

In this paper, NPC argues that charities and social enterprises do indeed have an important role to play in building a Big Society. But two things stand in the way: an inability to provide evidence of their impact and the challenge of identifying proven, cost-effective approaches and organisations that can be scaled up to meet the challenge.

Scaling up for the Big Society seeks to address this by suggesting ways to assess evidence of impact and social benefit and providing guidance on what to scale up and how to do it. It sets out a decision-making process to help identify a set of candidates for scaling up and poses questions to be asked along the way. The paper features examples of charities that have direct evidence of their effectiveness and could be scaled up successfully.

 The best charities should be supported and scaled up. The less good might be earmarked for cuts. If ministers choose this path, meeting the twin goals of cutting the deficit and fixing social problems is a possibility.

Martin Brookes, report author

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