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Where next for social impact?

Welcome to our 20th Anniversary essay and interview collection

Take me to the essays and interviews >

Trustee Expert Vaughan Lindsay

A foreword from NPC’s Chair of trustees, Vaughan Lindsay

For 20 years NPC has been helping philanthropists and charities to maximise social impact in the lives of the people they serve.  

Through our think tank and consultancy work, we’ve provided a challenging and independent voice that inspires bold initiatives and much needed innovation in the social sector. We’ve helped charities, philanthropists and funders to move from ‘in principle’ to ‘in practice’. And we’ve developed and encouraged new ideas and strategic leadership to help the social sector overcome the everchanging challenges they and their beneficiaries face. 

To mark our 20th birthday, we’ve been talking to leading figures and people doing things differently to ask: Where next for social impact?  

We want to look ahead to the next 20 years. What will the new challenges be? What new ways of doing good will emerge? And what changes should we be making now? 

We’ve chosen to explore three broad areas: 

  • Charities and the state – How political should charities be? How can charities better make their case to government? And can charities delivering public sector contracts really change the world for the better? 
  • Charities and society – Can charities achieve social justice? Can we fix the social capital gap? And what place is there for participation in grant-making? 
  • Where next for philanthropy? – What will it take to shift power in grant-making? What more can be done with data? And will AI ever replace grant-makers? 

We’d like to thank PwC for sponsoring this essay series. As a charity ourselves we rely on the generosity of those who value our work to help us to continue to produce research and guidance to support the sector in maximising social impact, so thank you to everyone who has supported us over the past twenty years. 

I hope you find these essays and interviews engaging and thought provoking. We’d love to hear what you think the future holds, and what you believe NPC should be focusing on. You can join the conversation online using the hashtag #20yearsofNPC or through our events 

-Vaughan Lindsay, NPC’s Chair of trustees 


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Charity Expert Dan Corry

An introduction from Dan Corry, Chief Executive of NPC

Britain – and the world – is riddled with challenges. The climate emergency, entrenched inequality, poverty, and mass migration in the face of wars are major systemic issues. The cost of living is the crisis of the hour, but every day so many people are living lives so much worse than they could  be – and many are in a very dire state. Lower quality of life is due to all sorts of circumstances; some bad luck, some bad decisions, and a lot due to how the market and globalisation works and the inability – through choice in some cases – of government to support them adequately.

The great army of those in the voluntary sector work every day to address and seek solutions to these challenges and improve the lives of others. They are guided not by pursuit of profit or by bureaucratic diktat, but by a passion to make the world a better place. That is why we at NPC are dedicated to helping to make all that effort achieve as much as possible – to have real, lasting, impact on people’s lives. Whether you’re a frontline delivery charity, a small community group, a major advocacy outfit or a social enterprise, we want to help you be the best for those you serve.

We are so pleased that so many inspirational people have chosen to contribute to this essay and interview collection to mark 20 years of NPC. Convening the sector is one of our strong points, and it helps advance key agendas.

This collection shows how much energy there is in the sector as well as how much there is to do. Leaders of different organisations will do what they can and that matters enormously. We are here to help just as we have done over the last two decades. Looking to the future, NPC  must continue to support and guide the whole sector forward – through our work to help it improve; our focus on innovative solutions to present and future challenges ranging from digital to data and beyond; our collaborative efforts to modernise philanthropy; and through our influencing role with government and with the public sector so that charities can do what they do best and not be stymied by bad laws and a lack of attention or understanding.

Over the next few weeks, this collection of essays and audio interviews will show how much there is to do, and how many opportunities there are for us all to play our part. Fozia Irfan is right to say that we must act out of a sense of justice to right the wrongs of the past. Chris Sherwood reminds us that many charities have unique insights and data which put them in a very strong position to provide the evidence base policy makers need to make better decisions. Lord Gus O’Donnell explains how the co-dependency between the social sector and the state makes the balance between them critical to our country’s success. And Polly Neate is right to ask, ‘if we can’t achieve social justice, why are we even here?’

Over the last 20 years we have brought the concept of assessing, measuring, and trying to improve impact into a sector mainly fuelled by passion and abject need. We made popular the key strategy tool, theory of change, that has revolutionised how so many now think in the charity sector and beyond. We have brought a data focus to the sector with the ground-breaking Justice Data Lab, and more recently our Local Needs Databank. We have pushed for new, more effective philanthropy, thinking hard about how to use its power and money in constructive and creative ways.

We can’t predict the future and what challenges will come next, but we can continue working to develop, test and share evidence-driven tools for all. We know that helping the sector be as impactful as it can, regardless of the next crises, will be crucial to  supporting a good society.

We were founded 20 years ago by a group of bold philanthropists who funded our early work to maximise social impact. Today we raise our own funding to be able to serve the sector, facing the same fundraising difficulties as many of our fellow charities. We hope that many of you will want to help us achieve more for the sector and the people it seeks to serve over the next 20 years, so we’ve launched NPC’s 20th anniversary ‘Future Fund’ to harness that energy and support as we explore: Where next for social impact? What will the new challenges be? What new ways of doing good will emerge? And what changes should we be making now?  That is our agenda and we hope you will join us on that exciting and worthwhile journey.

-Dan Corry, NPC’s Chief Executive 


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headshots of essayists

Charities and state

Audio: Interviews


headshot of essayists

Charities and society

Audio: Interviews


head shots of essayists

Where next for philanthropy?

Audio: Interviews

You can join the conversation using the hashtag #20yearsofNPC or through our events. As a charity ourselves we rely on the generosity of those who value our work to help us to continue to produce research and guidance to support the sector in maximising social impact. Visit our 20 years of NPC page to find out more.


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With thanks to PwC for sponsoring our essay and interview collection.

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More on 20 years of NPC