The UK voluntary sector has long seen itself as a watchdog on the state, exerting an influence on policy from outside the sphere of government, and it takes pride in its campaigning and lobbying role (Commission on the Future of the Voluntary Sector, 1996; Taylor, 1998). However, current policies are drawing many organisations into the policy process in another role — as ‘partners’. For some, this offers the potential for new forms of governance for the twenty-first century. Others see it as a source of frustration and continued marginalisation, coopting voluntary and community organisations as ‘peripheral insiders’ (Maloney et al., 1994) to a government agenda.
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