The Independent Inquiry into the Future of Civil Society was launched in April 2017 with the aim of investigating how to maximise the positive effects of civic action and provide a guide to how to release its potential to drive positive change. This paper presents Church Urban Fund’s responses to questions posed by the Inquiry about the purpose of civil society, how it is changing, and how it can contribute to human flourishing.
Drawing upon our engagement in communities across England – much of which is orientated towards building up civil society at the local level – we suggest that a key task for civil society is to articulate and model an alternative vision of human flourishing which is not based narrowly on the accumulation of wealth, or on the construction of individual identity through consumption, but which emphasizes the importance of relationships, equality and freedom. We believe there is the potential for civil society to play a pivotal role in rebalancing or ‘rehumanising’ aspects of society in which market-based drivers have been afforded excessive power. Revitalizing civil society and building social cohesion will require us to rebalance a proper sense of individual agency, creativity and responsibility, with a renewed sense of mutuality, reciprocity and inter-dependence in relationship with others.