I’m delighted to see Steve Moore emerge from the confused world of internal Big Society politics as new director of the Big Society Network, with the aim of making it “the innovation platform for the UK’s Prime Minister’s big idea; to build the Big Society”.
Steve isn’t a man for the formal press release, and the news emerged via Steve’s bio posting to the Athens TEDx event tomorrow, where Steve is presenting.
Before continuing, I should declare an interest: I’ve worked with and for Steve on and off over the years, including a couple of months with the Network, and know he’s just the guy to make socio-technological innovation a big part of whatever the network becomes. That’s not because Steve is in any sense a geek – but over the past three years or so he’s been one of the best convenors and connector of people across different sectors and professions in the field. He knows everyone on this front … inside and outside No 10.
I’m guessing the current role may not be long term for Steve – but should help the network find a new direction as it re-organises.In the past the chief executive of the Network has been Paul Twivy, whose passion is development of the Your Square Mile project. That now has funding – from Big Lottery Fund I believe – and Third Sector Magazine reports that pilots will start early next year. I’ve linked to previous items I’ve written on Big Society below, and you can see a set of slides about Big Society Network here. These represent aspirations for the network from a few months back. When the Network was launched in April by Paul Twivy and Nat (now Lord) Wei, the aim was to make it a network for potential activists “focusing on generating interest in social action, tackling the idea that you need to be an “activist” to get involved in your community. Through heartfelt, fun, intelligent and honest marketing, we will seek to increase involvement in social action for all people, no matter how much or how little time they have.” I would think that this function will now be taken on by Your Square Mile, which was always the flagship project for the Network. I know Paul has been working extremely hard on the project, and the slides show the scale of ambition, which includes creating a mutually-owned structure for millions of citizens.
The Network’s web site hasn’t yet caught up with the changes, and still says:
The Network is a group of citizens frustrated with the problems of modern Britain – from social isolation to community disintegration – and seeking to enable people to get involved in local solutions.
The networking function of the Network never really took off, and we have lacked any trusted, neutral space within which people can tease out what they may or may not like about Big Society, find people to work with, and organise for action. Or even work out just what Big Society is – see discussion on this Conservative blog here.
Lord (Nat) Wei – now an unpaid Govenment adviser – has done a great job of blogging his thoughts, and perhaps because he is the one person in Government trying to help people make sense of Big Society has attracted an informal circle of friends of the idea, including critical friends like me.
I’m sure Steve’s new move with the network will bring a lot of value, but it does demonstrate very clearly the lack of any way in which people can engage nationally with Big Society. Will civil society organisations develop their own equivalent of Big Society Network Mark 1? Will Big Society in the North develop Our Society, on the lines set out by Julian Dobson? See his latest post here.
I need to break off and do some paid-for work for a couple of hours, but will probably be unable to resist returning to my unpaid labours social reporting Big Society later in the day. Meanwhile, I’ll pop a link to this on Twitter, and see what emerges.
Update The Big Society Network have confirmed the changes, providing more detail on development of Your Square Mile and Paul Twivy’s continuing role with the organisation.