Social Action Inquiry

The Social Action Inquiry has been set up set up to find out more about how communities can take action that makes a difference. The inquiry is a partnership between Carnegie UK Trust, Corra Foundation, Foundation Scotland, the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE), Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO), The National Lottery Community Fund and The Robertson Trust.

Since late 2018, projects partners have been meeting to explore an inquiry into social action in Scotland, informed by the Civil Society Futures independent inquiry ( that took place in England.

The inquiry's vision is of a Scotland where social action is valued and able to make change happen in communities. It aims to address the following questions:

  • How can citizens take social action in their communities which can make Scotland a better place to live? How can this be sustained?
  • What are the factors – structural, policy, legal, financial, cultural, relational, demographic, digital, constitutional – which help or hinder the leverage and continuation of social action?
  • What changes do state institutions, private businesses and third sector organisations, including providers and funders, need to make to maximise the leverage, and realise the long term potential of social action?
  • How can harnessing the potential of social action enable us to respond to and be prepared for, and resilient in the face of, an increasingly turbulent and constantly changing environment?

What is social action?

Social action happens in civil society. We are all civil society – whenever and however we come together as citizens to take social action – informally and formally – outwith the state and the market.

People come together to help improve their lives and create responses to the issues that are important in them. Social action can empower citizens, support people and complement public services. It can challenge, or bypass vested interests. It benefits both individuals and communities.

This inquiry starts from the premise that social action is a vital part of the solution to the challenges we face as a society – now and in the future. The issue, therefore, is not whether it should but how it can realise its potential to bring about sustainable change – and in what conditions this happens.

In July 2020 the partners commissioned The Collective to lead on a short-term piece of research to capture the stories and lessons learned from communities coming together to help during the Coronavirus pandemic. From food drop offs to phone calls to isolated neighbours, volunteering and wellbeing support, the research brings to life the ways people developed creative approaches to make a difference.

The final research report Together We Help is now available and shines a light on the power of communities to mobilise and initiate social action in response to the issues that matter to them. The findings are consistent with some of the Social Renewal Advisory Board actions highlighting the need to shift more power to people and communities, and this will help inform the next stage of the Social Action Inquiry.


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