I’ve blogged before about suggestions that the Big Society is failing to cut through public confusion and apathy. Surveys have revealed that most people do not understand it, leaving those responsible for delivering the vision with a major challenge.
“People are not clear on what the big society is. Our polling found that 78% of adults in the UK believe the Government has failed to give people a clear idea of what the big society is. Our survey suggested that over 30% of voluntary sector CEOs say they are unclear…
“…We believe the Government should articulate a clearer definition of what it is that it is trying to achieve.”
A couple of views on the Big Society
Two commentators have made some interesting points on the Big Society in the last couple of days, which I thought I’d share here. Sheffield-based regeneration writer Julian Dobson blogs about the Incredible Edible Todmorden project, which features in a book published today on what’s termed the ‘Civic Economy’ and demonstrates everything the Government wants to the Big Society/small state formula to be.
Meanwhile, policy heavyweight Matthew Taylor blogs about the tensions between state and individual models for action, or supporting community initiatives versus the ‘rampant statism’ which is seen to stifle such activity.
Evidence suggests that most ordinary people don’t understand the Big Society or – worse – see it as cover for cuts. If this is to change, those responsible for delivering it need to be clear about the vision and frame it in ways that people understand.
I didn’t attend a street party yesterday (there wasn’t one where I lived). I didn’t even watch the wedding of live on TV (my daughter had a trampolining lesson to attend at 11.30am), although I caught plenty of it afterwards. But it wouldn’t be right for me to blog about anything else other than the marriage of Will and Kate this morning. Here are the three of the key things I picked up from yesterday’s media marathon.
1. Big Society beat talk of party pooper councils: There were warnings beforehand (including from the Government) that faceless local bureaucrats would stand in the way of people having a party (which I had blogged about when the engagement was announced). But seemingly, and thankfully, parties sprang up all over the place (usually with a journalist on hand with some commentary about how this signified the entire country was in a park or at a street party somewhere). And so the media in Cornwall, Gloucestershire, Swindon and other areas duly obliged with such coverage. There was still some talk about whether cash strapped councils got into the spirit of things. But with most people willing to chip in and sort out the parties themselves, this was a good example of the Big Society at work.
I blogged last month about an inspiring community-led scheme in High Bickington, Devon, which has brought villagers together to deliver badly needed housing and workspace for local people.
I was delighted this morning to read the two-page write-up Planning magazine had devoted to the project, following a visit and some interviews organised at the site a few weeks ago.
The link is not yet up on the website, so I can not provide this. But the coverage highlighted the project’s ‘local’ credentials, which predate the Government’s localism and Big Society agendas by the best part of a decade.
It’s great to see the project, and the role of the HCA in its delivery, recognised by the industry. I will try to provide links to the coverage when they are available!
I was there with a colleague, supporters of the project and a journalist from Planning magazine who is writing a feature on High Bickington (I hope as an example of how local action and partnership working can deliver the amenities communities are calling for).