Tag Archives: bigsocietynetwork

A little recap on Big Society

I’m really enjoying Paul Twivy’s book Be Your Own Politician, which champions social action and citizen engagement, informed by his insider knowledge of how challenging it is to promote and negotiate support for that within the political establishment and Whitehall.

Paul recounts how he succeeded through work with Comic Relief, Timebanking, Change the World for a Fiver, and the Big Lunch, among much else – but not so much with the Big Society Network and Your Square Mile. His chapter on how this unwound is fascinating, and generally confirms my understanding as an independent observer and also paid-for socialreporter for the Network at one stage. Here’s the Big Society Wikipedia entry.

Paul recounts the point at which the change of leadership of the Network, from his initial role to that of Steve Moore, emerged through Steve promoting the fact in his bio for a TEDx event in Athens in November 2010. I picked up the bio reference – without any briefing from Steve – and blogged a piece “Steve Moore leads new Big Society Innovation Platform“.

I aimed to provide people with an even-handed update on Big Society developments, because they were so difficult to come by,  and declared I’d known Steve for a some years and worked directly for him and then the Network. I explain that Paul had worked hard on developing Your Square Mile, and this was due to launch soon.

Unfortunately Steve had jumped ahead of any official announcement, and Paul recounts in his book the difficulty and embarrassment this caused. (I didn’t appreciate until now that Steve had used Paul’s slides for his talk). May I offer a retrospective apology for my part in the upset? I probably should have checked, since I had worked for the Network, and owed it more than a purely journalistic relationship.

On the other hand, there was considerable public interest in Big Society and the Network, and I think it’s fair to say I was one of very few people trying to get behind the politics and provide a running account. I was frustrated by the lack of briefing – although reading Paul’s account, I can now better understand the reason for that. It wasn’t an open process.

Anyway, you can read that particular blog post here, and judge its tone yourself. The tag cloud on this blog – right sidebar – shows that that over the years I’ve written more about Big Society, Big Society Network, and Your Square Mile than most topics, starting with a report of the launch. That includes a video interview with Paul and Nat Wei, as well as David Cameron’s remarks. I subsequently joined the Your Square Mile mutual, reported the launch, including an interview with Paul.

I’ll leave the retrospection at that for now, although it would be interesting to reflect on what Your Square Mile was trying to achieve, and whether there are lessons for what’s now needed for local social action, blending digital and non-digital methods.  There may be some wider value in the work I’ve been doing with Drew Mackie on Living Well in the Digital Age, and the idea of local Living Labs.  Here’s some thinking on operating systems and social apps, connecting local frameworks with the DCLG Grey Cells model.

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 »

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 »

Big day for Big Society Network

It’s been an interesting day for Big Society watchers, or more particularly for those interested in the role of the Big Society Network.**  (declaration of interest below).
Third Sector Magazine ran an analysis of the Network by John Plummer, together with the story that the “town hall tour” of a dozen or so meetings around the country had been called off following a “turbulent” first gathering in Stockport.
The Guardian racked it up a bit with ‘Big Society’ meetings cancelled over cuts anger – “Embarrassment for Cameron as meeting series meant to kickstart ‘big society’ abandoned due to public frustration at spending cuts”. read more »

Evolving Big Society – summary and next ideas

Here’s a catch-up on the posts I’ve written over the past few days about Big Society, with a few more thoughts on networking and knowledge ecologies. All posts on the topic are here.
As a reminder, the Big Society idea, launched pre-election by the Conservatives and now a centrepiece of coalition Government policy, is about a smaller state matched by more powers for local communities and encouragement for volunteering, social action, social enterprise and other forms of nonprofits.

The post There is no Big Society Big Plan – but that’s no bad thing said there’s a lot starting to happen under the Big Society banner, but it is a mistake to see it as an old-style government programme. The idea is that things emerge more organically, without any one Minister – or anyone else – being in charge. Fair enough for something aiming for wide-spread action by many interests, but the problem is that no-one really understands what Big Society stands for, or how to join in. There’s no voice, no story, and consequently a lot of rubbishing.
In Since there’s no Big Society Big Plan, can we expect Big Process? Probably not I examined the idea of a Big Process to develop some clear purpose and shared vision, led by Prime Minister David Cameron, but concluded that was unlikely to happen. It’s not really feasible in the current political climate, and probably not the sort of thing Downing Street would want to orchestrate anyway.
Networking Big Society – or maybe some knowledge gardening suggested another approach to get the best out of Big Society: build on the wealth of activity already supported by many community and voluntary sector networks, while also adding innovative methods for mass engagement. Help community organisers and anyone engaged in social action make good use of the social technologies now widely available, but under-used by traditional activists.
(I should declare some self-interest here. I’m working part-time with the Big Society Network, and this is the sort of programme of network-weaving I would like to work on …  joining up conversations, helping people make sense of what’s going on, brokering new opportunities. While it would be possible simply to write lots about the great projects already underway, it would be counter-productive to try and pull these under a Big Society banner without asking. If people want to add the term Big Society to their project stories, that’s up to them – anything else is co-option. Certainly not empowerment).
As I mentioned in the last post, we have a forum to explore social tech and networking here on Social by Social, and that’s probably the best place for detail.
So, in summary, what I think that what we should try (and I’ll come back to the we) is development of a rich mix of online and offline conversations, stories, wants, offers and inspirations created by those who have been in this field for years, and some fresh voices too. read more »

Networking Big Society – or maybe some knowledge gardening

In my last two posts here and here I’ve written about the Government’s idea for the Big Society, which aims to ….

  1. Give communities more powers
  2. Encourage people to take an active role in their communities
  3. Transfer power from central to local government
  4. Support co-ops, mutuals, charities and social enterprises
  5. Publish government data.

… and suggested that while there is a lot now underway,  there is no Big Plan and it is also unlikely that we will see a Big Process aimed at creating any shared vision for what’s needed to move from aspiration to achievement.
I haven’t been writing particularly critically – not just because I’m working part-time for the Big Society Network. For the best of Big Society ideas to succeed they have to be filled out and realised bottom-up, not through Government-orchestrated programmes. read more »

Since there's no Big Society Big Plan, can we expect Big Process? Probably not.

My last post There is no Big Society Big Plan – and that’s no bad thing attracted some comments and even more tweets – thanks everyone. However it did leave things up in the air, with some people saying let’s keep things unorganised, and others suggesting that’s how the less-influential lose out.
I had some ideas which I didn’t put into the post: it was long enough already, and I wasn’t quite sure which way to go.
Fortunately I then picked up on this excellently- argued post via @HelenLindop on Twitter from Louie Gardiner: Big Society – People Power. read more »

Social App Store gains support in the North

Earlier this week Big Society in the North launched with an open event in Sheffield, and as I expected it was a great opportunity to test some ideas developed mainly in London against harder local realities – including the Social App Store. The bsitnorth group had taken the DIY philosophy of Big Society and decided they would explore the challenges and develop opportunities without waiting for any more from Whitehall.
Lucy Windmill of Amplified has done a terrific job of live blogging the event, and pulling together tweets and videos here. Organisers Julian Dobson and John Popham have blogged thoughts here and here. read more »

A invitation to help develop the Good Stuff Store

The idea of a Social Apps Store to support local social action – floated here – has gained enthusiastic support among my colleagues in the Big Society Network, where I’ve played the role of social reporter for a few week. While very welcome, this internal support wouldn’t matter much if the Store didn’t appeal more widely to those who have pioneered the use of social tech for social benefit in recent years … and those doing less shiny but more challenging work on the ground.
I’m really pleased by support so far because it seems a good example of how social reporters can operate.
Consultants are known as people who borrow your watch and tell you the time, and then walk off with the watch. Journalists are under pressure to make things just that bit more interesting than when first heard (so you may not always recognise your idea on page or on screen).  Maybe social reporting can gather pieces of conversation and ideas and present them back in ways that encourage people to say: thanks for adding … I want to help with that … now it makes sense. Being positive, joining up, making sense, helping out, as I wrote earlier. I’ve done a bit of journalism and consultancy, and this is much more satisfying. read more »