It looks as if the Your Square Mile initiative, headed by Paul Twivy and supported by the Big Lottery Fund, has found some middle ground between the Tory Big Society and Labour’s Good Society.
Tomorrow YSM will be holding a press event to launch it’s new web site http://yoursquaremile.co.uk now online; show a documentary about the pilot projects they have been working with around the country, and explain more about plans to make YSM a mutual owned by millions of citizens.
Unusually they are expecting both Nick Hurd, Minister for Civil Society, and Tessa Jowell, Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office, to wish them well at the event.
Your Square Mile will support local action throughout the country, eventually aiming for around 5000 local Square Miles. They recently held a summit in Birmingham – as I reported here – to bring together people from the pilots, and provide an update on their plans.
YSM was originally part of the Big Society Network at its launch, but is now independent. The Big Lottery Fund provided £830,000 funding for the YSM technology platform as part of its People Powered Change programme. (Disclose: I’m working with John Popham and Drew Mackie on the ppchange programme as you’ll see here).
I met up with YSM managing director Jamie Cowen the other day and asked him what’s different about YSM. He emphasised that in the pilots they brought together a mix of people who had not been involved in local action with seasoned activists and volunteers, and aim to do more of that; the web site will provide a powerful means for aggregating information from many sources; and also they will focus on helping individuals do what they want to do – not start with any presumptions.
That last point does, perhaps, distinguish YSM from much of past Big Society rhetoric. As I wrote here, research shows people generally react against being told what they should do by government, and that may have been one of the reasons that Big Society didn’t work well as a call to action.
Here’s Jamie talking us through the new website at the YSM summit in Birmingham. I’ve just pulled out the audio over a still, because the video shot on the day didn’t cover the screen shots … so I suggest you do your own browsing the site here.
I’ll be reporting more about YSM here, and also on the socialreporters.net site that we’ve set up to report about this and other People Powered Change developments.