In every corner of Northern Ireland, civil society can be found. In every community, civil society plays its vital triple role: bringing people together, campaigning to solve pressing problems, and providing services – particularly to those who are otherwise marginalised and overlooked. From improving health to peacebuilding and boosting economic growth, when it comes to achieving the changes that everyone agrees are needed, civil society is essential to each and every goal.

Over the last decade, the role that civil society plays has become ever more fundamental to life across the UK. The Covid pandemic shone a spotlight on just how critical civil society is, with the growth of mutual aid groups, the support the sector provided to the most vulnerable, and the momentous efforts of the volunteers who made the vaccine rollout a success. The current cost of living crisis has highlighted it even more starkly, as charities strive to stand between people and the worst consequences of poverty.

Yet civil society does not yet have all the tools and the environment it needs to fulfil its full potential in this challenging context. The Law Family Commission on Civil Society has come together to lay out a plan to create the conditions for civil society to thrive, so it can better fulfil its broad range of varied and vital roles, supporting economic and social wellbeing across Northern Ireland. Achieving this ambition requires action from every sector, and leadership from government and the business community, as well as from within civil society itself.

The Commission is calling for strategic investment in the productivity of the social sector, the data available to and about it, and in the changes needed to unlock philanthropy. This must be accompanied by a dramatic acceleration in the partnership between civil society and business, and advances in the relationship between civil society and government.

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