The Brief

Our Enabling State programme of activities began in 2012 with the aim of describing the paradigm shift that is transforming the UK welfare state to an enabling state. This shift is characterised by a recognition that traditional ‘top down’ approaches can no longer solve the complex social problems that we face as a society and that the state needs to play a more facilitative and enabling role which empowers individuals and communities to have more control over their personal  wellbeing and our collective wellbeing as a society. We work with charities, local government and devolved governments across the UK to better understand this shift and identify policy tools to encourage Individual and community empowerment.


In 2017/18 we are:

  • Continuing our support for the Better Way Network, anetwork of social activists, from the voluntary sector and beyond, dedicated to improving services and building stronger communities.  The network connects people who want to share their ideas, knowledge and inspiration with others who have the same goals and, with their help, is  hoping to achieve a more confident, clearer description  of why this change is needed and how it can be achieved in practice, as well as building a growing movement for change.  The network is hosted by Civil Exchange and is also being supported by the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation. Find out more at
  • Continuing our partnership with The Wheel, in Ireland, to support Citizens Rising, phase 2 of the People’s Conversation. The project was designed to develop a new vision for active citizenship and empowered communities by creating safe public spaces for people, from across civil society to come together and have engaging and challenging conversations on what it means to be a citizen in Ireland today.  Find out more at
  • Working in partnership with the British Academy on the ‘Governing England’ project, a multi-disciplinary project which seeks to address some of the key issues relating to emerging debates about English devolution and governance in the context of a changing Union. It will touch on questions relating to identity and institutions and the relationship between the two, as well as debates on parliament, government, and the political parties. It will explore whether England and English identity are becoming more distinct and politically assertive. Governing England also investigates the governance of England’s cities and regions, considers the implications of changes such as ‘English Votes for English Laws’ for the UK constitution as a whole, and the relationship between institutional change and political identity at the regional level. You can keep up to date with Governing England via the British Academy’s blog, which can be found here.
  • Publishing our research into What Do Citizens Want.  In partnership with the University of Edinburgh, What Works Scotland, Loretto Housing, Link and Blackwood Homes and Care, we have been exploring how professional public services fit into people’s everyday life, in order to support personal agency and link effectively with informal emotional and practical support from friends, family and the wider community.

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Jennifer Wallace

Rebekah Menzies

Natalie Hancox





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