In this timely book, John Nickson, one of Britain’s most experienced and successful fundraisers, argues that there will be catastrophic effects on our democracy unless we all commit to creating the social, cultural and intellectual capital we need to sustain society and our economy.
OCF staff and trustees were privileged last night to attend the launch of John Nickson’s new book Our Common Good, held at the Royal College of Music in Kensington.
The book was introduced by Lord (Chris) Smith, Master of Pembroke College, chairman of the Art Fund and former Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, who says: “Our society is divided, unequal, uncertain and in search of an identity and purpose. Old assumptions have gone and old sources of financial support are diminishing. We need to look anew at how all of us, as citizens, can sustain society, our way of life and our civilisation. This book is a timely answer to that challenge.”
John’s book makes the case for the role of private philanthropy as well as partnership working between the private and public sectors in the context of the shrinking of the role of the State. At the launch he said: “Almost every aspect of life in contemporary Britain has been shaped as much by the personal generosity and social commitment of our predecessors as by the state. We know the world is changing but we lack a coherent and convincing story of national change that is hopeful. The politicians are silent. For optimism and positivity we should look to the voluntary sector where remarkable people are dedicating themselves to the common good. I call these people the heroes and heroines of our age. These are people who have answers to the question: if the state provides less, who will provide more? And they show how it can be done. Their stories are in my book; please spread the word and do all you can to persuade the media and our politicians that what they are doing really matters.”
In particular, Our Common Good promotes the role of community philanthropy as embodied by community foundations, with two chapters focused on the proactive role community foundations across the UK are taking in channeling funds into the charitable sector. In one, John features Oxfordshire Community Foundation and gives space to OCF’s Chief Executive Jayne Woodley, who talks about OCF’s research report Oxfordshire Uncovered, the case for building permanent local wealth in the form of an endowment, and OCF’s work supporting affordable housing and children’s centres in the county.
Jayne comments in her blog post this week about John’s book: “On every page, I was reminded about things that matter to me, things I have often thought and things I have seen close up over the past 6 years that I have been lucky enough to work for the Oxfordshire Community Foundation. If ever there was a time and a place for us all to accept responsibility for the society we see unfolding before our eyes then I believe now is that time.”
John argues that community foundations should become integral to modern philanthropy: “Britain lacks and needs a new culture of giving appropriate for the twenty-first century. This will only come about if people are inspired to join a new, positive and non-political social movement. UK Community Foundations could play a leading role in such a movement at a local and national level. They would make the case that voluntary redistribution should become a normal expectation in an enterprise culture.”
John Nickson’s book, published this week, can be purchased from publisher Biteback.