Category Archives: Big Society

Programme promoted by the UK coalition government

How helpful is journalism for People Powered Change? Further thoughts.

What sort of community media and support for knowledge sharing, learning and innovation do we need – both locally and nationally – when the big society policy agenda expects so much more of citizen-led action?

The significance of this issue - which I touched on rather theoretically here – is now given more practical import by the Big Lottery fundingfor the Media Trust’s ambitious £1.89 million programme of news hubs for local communities, which I reported here and here. read more »

No 10 wants to hear about your local digital project

If your community-benefit project would itself benefit from some endorsement from the Prime Minister, there’s a couple of days before the next round of submissions for Big Society Awards.

If, in addition, yours is a digitally-enabled project, you might have a good chance of being featured on the No 10 web site as one of 12 projects chosen each quarter, and getting an invite to a reception with David Cameron. Full details here including the nomination form.

Of course, you might say “wouldn’t touch it with a virtual barge pole” … and I share with others reservations about Big Society as brand and the many contradictions in policy it embodies, while promoting citizen-led action. Past musings here on various things Big Society-related.

However, those who have been to receptions for award winners report genuine, joyful enthusiasm, and about 500 submissions have been received since the awards launched last November. Are the activists being co-opted for political purpose? I think it is up to them, and would like to see the awards as one small way to make direct connection between the very London-centric nature of Big Society promotion and what’s happening on the ground. read more »

Big Society in crisis? It’s just becoming big society

Opinion surveys and a report from ACEVO – which represents the chief executives of voluntary organisations – have led to a fresh round of stories about how Big Society is doomed, the government must try harder, no-one understands it, and more seriously that BS policies will increase inequality.

The Independent on Sunday headlines The Big Society in crisis: Are the wheels coming off the PM’s Big Idea?. The Guardian says Government urged to take a strong lead in Big Society, Third Sector magazine reports Banks missed ‘historic opportunity’ to support voluntary sector and i-volunteer blogs that Forty percent of people still don’t know what the big society means.

There’s clearly substance in all the stories, although some are more negative than the tone of the ACEVO report (Word doc) which “embraces the Big Society as an agenda” while calling on the Government to “fill in the blanks” on contributions from banks, support for deprived communities … and also improve communication and leadership.

However, I think that the way which we can best understand Big Society is changing. (Warning: mixed metaphors follow). read more »

Big Society in crisis? It's just becoming big society

Opinion surveys and a report from ACEVO – which represents the chief executives of voluntary organisations – have led to a fresh round of stories about how Big Society is doomed, the government must try harder, no-one understands it, and more seriously that BS policies will increase inequality.

The Independent on Sunday headlines The Big Society in crisis: Are the wheels coming off the PM’s Big Idea?. The Guardian says Government urged to take a strong lead in Big Society, Third Sector magazine reports Banks missed ‘historic opportunity’ to support voluntary sector and i-volunteer blogs that Forty percent of people still don’t know what the big society means.

There’s clearly substance in all the stories, although some are more negative than the tone of the ACEVO report (Word doc) which “embraces the Big Society as an agenda” while calling on the Government to “fill in the blanks” on contributions from banks, support for deprived communities … and also improve communication and leadership.

However, I think that the way which we can best understand Big Society is changing. (Warning: mixed metaphors follow). read more »

Popse! takes think tanking onto the street

I have to confess that I wasn’t paying much attention to the tweets this week from @popupthinktank … until I met up with Nick Temple at the On Purpose party. It was an occasion where the formal presentations were interesting, but the chance to sit outside and have a quiet beer with a few old and new acquaintances was even more engaging. It is these conversations that most often leave me with the new idea or connection.

I discovered that Nick, formerly head of policy at the School for Social Entrepreneurs, had joined up with some other free agents, social artists, creative collaborators and generally sparky types and turned hanging out into a new form of Think Tank. Of course, there was a bit more to it than that, and I had to find out for myself with a trip to Exmouth Market, in Clerkenwell. read more »

Balancing “real” and online local collaboration: 80/20?

A few weeks back I posted a piece over here about the Big Lottery-funded Village SOS programme, which supports some exciting and ambitious local projects, plus local web sites, all linked to a forthcoming BBC series.

The local sites are developed using SocialGO – and I remarked that they looked pretty empty. I wondered if this was a bad omen for the Your Square Mile programme, using a similar approach, also funded by BIG to the tune of £830,000: most recent YSM news here. I wrote:

The big issue it raises for me, in relation to Your Square Mile, is whether there will be training and support for the local online community builders. I should think SocialGo can delive the technology – but it is people who create the content. Is anyone supporting the Village SOS online managers?

The post was on a clippings blog I use occasionally use, and I hadn’t ticked in the email notification for comments, so I didn’t spot the excellent contributions from my online-savvy friend Ed Mitchell, of the Transition Network, and Claudio Concha, head of new media for BIG. I’m mortified. read more »

Balancing "real" and online local collaboration: 80/20?

A few weeks back I posted a piece over here about the Big Lottery-funded Village SOS programme, which supports some exciting and ambitious local projects, plus local web sites, all linked to a forthcoming BBC series.

The local sites are developed using SocialGO – and I remarked that they looked pretty empty. I wondered if this was a bad omen for the Your Square Mile programme, using a similar approach, also funded by BIG to the tune of £830,000: most recent YSM news here. I wrote:

The big issue it raises for me, in relation to Your Square Mile, is whether there will be training and support for the local online community builders. I should think SocialGo can delive the technology – but it is people who create the content. Is anyone supporting the Village SOS online managers?

The post was on a clippings blog I use occasionally use, and I hadn’t ticked in the email notification for comments, so I didn’t spot the excellent contributions from my online-savvy friend Ed Mitchell, of the Transition Network, and Claudio Concha, head of new media for BIG. I’m mortified. read more »

First Your Square Mile sites up – privately

The highly-ambitious Your Square Mile programme, that aims to help develop “8000 local democracies” throughout the UK supported  by new online systems, now has some of the first sites up in the pilot areas, using SocialGO. Here’s screen shots from Todmorden. There is no central register of sites, but as examples here’s Liverpool8Manton, and Wigton. read more »

Join Our Society for the Big Society anniversary reality check event

Big Society is reaching it’s first birthday as a manifesto, a network, and set of ideas and principles that have shaped many Coalition government policies. On Thursday in London the far more modest, less contentious, non-partisan Our Society is holding a big society reality check. I hope you’ll join us online or in person.

A year ago this week David Cameron, then in opposition, led a seminar to launch Big Society as the Conservative manifesto, and then walked down the road to the Thames-side OXO building to launch the Big Society Network, developed by Paul Twivy and Nat Wei.

Paul was the chief executive of the network, which was to be a mass-membership organisation. One of the ideas was a project called Your Square mile, to support local social action.

I received invites courtesy of Steve Moore, who I had worked with in the past, and who was doing a lot of behind the scenes organising.

I don’t think any commentators at the time expected Big Society to be as politically significant as it has been – like it or not.

Today Steve is director of the network – which is focussing on events, social enterprise, participatory budgeting and innovative projects. It doesn’t recruit members. Paul Twivy is heading up Your Square Mile, with £830,000 of Big Lottery funding announced last week as part of People Powered Change, with an ambition to have 15 million members. Nat Wei is in the Lords, as Government adviser.

During that year Our Society was formed as network, growing out Big Society in the North, to provide people with a space to celebrate their achievements in local communities, share experience, and work out how to survive and make the best of the changes Big Society was bringing. I’m a founder member, with others you can see here. We are volunteers, and currently have over 460 members. I think it is fair to say it is currently the only substantial, open, independent forum dedicated to discussion of Our/Big/Good Society. read more »

People Powered Change needs ppchange communications

The launch of Big Lottery’s People Powered Change, which I wrote about earlier and have just attended, generated the usual mixed reaction online and in the room from romantics, boosters and critics.

On the romantics and boosters side we had huge enthusiasm for a BIG vision of bottom up community action catalysed by £5.76 million of funding, including £2.2 million support for 25 social entrepreneurs though Unltd,  £830,000 for the Your Square Mile online system for local communities, and £820,000 for the Young Foundation. NESTA Neighbourhood Challenge gets £2 million. Links below to details.

From the critics we had “nothing new here, people have been doing it for years”, ” real community activists won’t use the technology” and “it’s too top-down, with too little grass-roots experience”, plus “give money to local projects not national programmes”.

We may not know for some years who is right, but at this stage it is possible to see where the challenges lie, and where early action could increase the chances of success. read more »