This report draws on workshops involving 150 voluntary community sector and social enterprise organisations working in the North East to provide a critical analysis of some of the key policies the government has put forward under the banner of the 'Big Society'. It also asks a crucial question: will the Big Society be a fair society?

The Big Society agenda is a key priority for the government. Aspiring to reshape relationships between the citizen and the state, it has already altered the policy landscape. Voluntary and community sector (VCS) and social enterprise organisations are crucial intermediaries between the state and local communities. But many face a difficult future as public sector spending cuts start to bite.

Identifying four tests of fairness - access to resources, 'losers', power distribution and accountability - the report makes a number of recommendations in response to the Big Society agenda, highlighting the importance of community organisers and public sector procurement, clarifying the role of the 'civic service' and the Big Society Bank, and promoting seedcorn grants and matched giving to support enterprise and VCS activities.