Interest in the formal voluntary sector and wider civil society organisations (CSOs) has grown in recent years and now CSOs are viewed as key to delivering government policy agendas of social action, open public services and localism. This article uses data from 29 interviews with community activists, policy makers and voluntary sector experts to explore the role, function and workings of small-scale civil society organisations (SCSOs). It finds that small-scale activity often emerges as an emotional response to local need, shared interest or the desire for social interaction rather than in response to policy initiatives. SCSOs call on a wide range of resources garnered within their community of geography or of interest. They thrive in unregulated environments providing flexible and holistic services for people in need. The article argues that the co-option of such activities into the delivery of political agendas is unlikely to achieve policy goals.
- civil society