The Charity Sector, Games Legacy and the Big Society – Where Does It All Come Together?

It has been four months since the London 2012 Games ended, and one word more than others has been used to describe the vision for the future: Legacy. There was a thought, back in September, of “the Games are over: now what?” Lord Coe pledged, when presenting Britain’s bid for the Games back in 2005, to “inspire a generation” and deliver a lasting legacy. There’s no question that the Games were inspirational – for many of us, images of the likes of Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah and Ellie Simmons celebrating their medal successes are etched in our minds, and we will leap at the opportunity to celebrate Team GB and Paralympics GB’s achievements many times over.

Leonie promotes the London 2012 legacy at the JHub reception.

Leonie promotes the London 2012 legacy at the JHub reception.

Last night, JVN, Mitzvah Day and the Jewish Committee for the London Games (JCLG) invited Jewish Olympic and Paralympic volunteers to a reception at the JHub in West Hampstead. It was well-attended and the room was filled with smiles as memories of the summer were re-lived by the various speakers. People responded extremely positively to JVN Director Leonie Lewis when she said that “we can make the legacy a reality together.” And there are signs that the legacy has come to fruition. For example, millions of pounds have been pledged and pumped into encouraging participation in sport, and it seems to have worked – Maria Miller, the Culture Secretary, claimed that 900,000 more people were taking part in sport and physical activity at the end of 2012 than at the end of 2011. And she also claimed that other elements – people’s changing attitudes towards disability, the economic boom the Games provided, and, of course, the increase in volunteering – proved the Games’ continuing impact. This is open to debate, but we can remain optimistic.

So, we ask the question: what part does the charity sector have to play in the legacy of London 2012? David Cameron said that he wanted to create “the best Olympic legacy ever” in August last year and appointed Lord Coe his Olympics legacy ambassador. This led some to believe that the government was, at last, delivering on its promise to create a Big Society, even if this move was possibly rather opportunistic. But this view has been severely weakened this week with Sir Stephen Bubb, head of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO), which represents over 2,000 charities, claiming that reforms to public services had been “glacially slow” and criticising the “crippling spending cuts” faced by many charities, particularly small and medium sized ones. The government rejected this and claimed that they were “determined to build on the success of the Games Makers at the Olympics and inspire a new generation of volunteers through programmes like Join In and National Citizen Service.” They clearly, therefore, recognise a link between the Olympic legacy, the charity sector and the Big Society (whatever it is interpreted to be). But there seems to be a conflict here. Whilst Bubb clarified his point in an interview on Radio 4’s Today Programme, claiming that he was not having a “whinge about cuts” but that he was highlighting the “huge frustration” felt by charities towards the government’s action on reforming public services, his point remains that the Big Society as a principle cannot be delivered in the face of this lack of effective action.

Will the volunteers receive the support and effective management they need to keep volunteering?

Will the volunteers receive the support and effective management they need to keep volunteering?

The government’s assertion that they have always “worked to help charities and social enterprises do more good” seemingly goes against how a large proportion of the charity sector feels. Volunteers must be effectively managed and put to work in the best possible manner. And until charities stop being forced to close and are given the support from the government that they need to do this, the London 2012 legacy cannot survive, and the move towards a Big Society will be significantly, and possibly irreversibly, damaged.

Still not taken part in JVN’s survey of organisations? Do it here now!


Categories: JVN Events, Olympics, The Third Sector, Volunteering, Volunteering Issues


Hi, I'm Mike, JVN's Youth Co-ordinator and blogger. I'll be blogging about all sorts of issues affecting the volunteering community, with a particular focus on how recent developments might affect the UK Jewish community's volunteers. I'm always interested to read the comments you make. If you have something you want to see in the JVN blog, e-mail me at and I'll be happy to talk. And if you're inspired by any of my blogs to volunteer, log on to and register to find your perfect volunteering opportunity.


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