Tag Archives: bigsocietynetwork

Mapping at the Big Society Network Open Night

One experiment we tried at the recent Big Society Network Open Night was asking anyone who wanted to lead a discussion to step to the front, pitch, form a group, chat, report back.
Silence? Chaos? Conflict? No, it just worked as you can see from the videos. Well, I was pretty sure it would, because Steve Moore facilitates open space events very well, with light touch/high enthusiasm. So not really that much of an experiment.
However, another thing we tried was asking people to fill in a short questionnnaire about who they worked with, and where they thought their strengths lay in terms of skills, resources, and willingness to share.
My colleague Drew Mackie has been using this technique extensive in local projects, and it is particularly useful if you want to do some network weaving to improve connections, and to figure out the potential for doing More with More by releasing resources in the social fabric … breaking down bureaucratic barriers, merging silos etc.
About 40 of the 150 plus people present filled in the questionnaire. We explained that the input data would be confidential, but that we would map the results as an illustration. You can see the result here – click to expand. read more »

Building the Big Social Apps Store


Yesterday we had the first Open Night for Big Society Network, with more than 150 enthusiasts, sceptics and critical friends working through just what Big Society might mean in practice.
Was it a mask for coalition cuts on public funding, re-invention of the community development wheel, an unrealistic expectation about volunteering? Or could it be, in part, a new sort of Open Source Social Apps Store?
BSN chief executive Paul Twivy was frank in acknowledging the concerns. But he said it could also be a way to develop creative approaches to tackling local problems, mixing the skills and resources of existing networks and groups with social innovation powered by new technology. The BSN model for that is Your Square Mile, about which more later.

After an intro from Paul, and briefing from facilitator Steve Moore, people came to the front of the room at Communities and Local Government, pitched the topic they wanted to discuss, formed groups, and got talking. It was hot, noisy, creative and mostly very positive. You can see the Twitter stream as well as background material on the BSNopen wiki here.
In my role as social reporter I pulled Paul and Steve into the cooler, quieter, foyer for the five minute verson of what was going on then returned to the buzz to capture feedback from the groups. You can see Paul and Steve above, and all videos below.


Once you start to play the first one, the later ones appear at the bottom of the player frame. Or you can find them all here on YouTube.


Paul provided a framework for the discussions by explaining Your Square Mile – above – as a way of bringing together the best advice and services for social action in a locality, enhanced by a range of new products developed by BSN with partners. The Network will be mutually owned by its members … and Paul is talking millions of members. For a few pounds a year subscription they will receive special benefits that might include, for example, low-cost insurance cover. Paul talked about ways to encourage people to invest their saving locally, to think about time as a currency, and to reduce barriers to volunteering and social action.

One of the strengths of the  Big Society idea is that it the reverse of the centrally planned government programmes of the past, where policy-makers developed frameworks, invited people to pitch ideas within those, and attached strong guidelines and targets to any support. It’s to be Your Idea, Your Priority, Your Passion.

The problem is that it is difficult to explain just because it is so diverse. There is no one Big Voice, Big Idea … but potentially many voices, many ideas. Last night was a microcosm of that. So how do you help join up those conversation so people can learn from each other … and so there is a heightened sense of what is possible? How do you create opportunities for people to share and sell, find new partners?

Last night Steve Moore asked me to speak briefly about ideas for a Big Society Commons or Store, which I wrote about here, and here. I said we need space with different levels … information, conversation, exchange, products and services. Maybe it is a mall plus a market, some high tech, some low. It is absolutely not created by government, but by those with something to offer.

Then I started to wonder about the role of the skilled, creative, passionate people at the Open Night. Perhaps one analogy for part of the store is an Apps store, where you can download smart ways of doing things to your mobile phone. Some are free, some you pay for. The fee goes to the developer, with a percentage to the store owner.

It works because there is a framework for the way apps are developed – tight in the case of Apple, more flexible in open sources stores.

So perhaps some of the people at the Open Night were potential developers for the Social Apps Store. If the Network can help to create the store, it will provide a much bigger market for those with social action products and services to sell – or offer free.

The Apps Store offers one metaphor to help us think how we bring good stuff together, what’s in it for the different interests involved, what rules and frameworks we need to make sure things work together.

But then, I like tech stuff. What’s your metaphor?

Over the next few days I’ll pull together the blog posts written after last night, and update the wiki. Meanwhile tonight I’m with colleague Drew Mackie, and Niall Smith of IDeA, at Warwick University where over dinner we are running a version of the Social by Social game for people working in tobacco control alliances around the country.

We’ll be looking at how social media and social reporting can engage smokers and help them quit,  and build stronger partnerships among health organisations. Far fetched? Not at all – just look at the work Steve Thompson is doing in Wrekenton, where we ran a version of the game a few months back. We provided the framework – local people filled it out with their knowledge and enthusiasm.

Building Big Society giving and doing by making it easier to listen

Update and summary: Lord Nat Wei, one of the authors of the Big Society idea and Network founder, will no longer blog about the vision. He will be working as unpaid advisor to Government. Meanwhile, many people are talking about Big Society, but finding it difficult to get to the core idea and connect with each other. The network could make a virtue of listening, and encouraging many voices.

There’s been lots of discussion around Big Society over the past couple of weeks, as you can see from my bookmarks, the Twitter stream, and this smart way of displaying content generated in many different places.

Using paper.li you can agree a hashtag (keyword with # before it) then ask people to post links (URLs) of blog items or other content in a tweet containing the hashtag. Set up paper.li to search for the tag, and it displays both the tweets and the original articles – creating your own news page refreshed daily (thanks @evangineer). read more »

Neighbourhood activists prepare for cuts with "pay what you can" event

Good to see people who work in the front line of social action and local renewal gearing up to respond quickly to the changes that will hit work at neighbourhood level, whatever Government we have after May 6.
The National Association for Neighbourhood Management has a spring conference on May 12, and has switched pricing to “Pay what you can afford”, starting at £20. Booking here. read more »

Big Society Network founders share their passion for social action

The Big Society Network has been quiet since its launch on the same day as the Conservative Big Society plans, which then became the centrepiece of the Tory manifesto. The Network aims to be non-partisan, despite sharing a name, so it must be difficult to figure out how to promote their plans for a 15 million-strong mutual society to support social action wihout getting too caught up in the election fray. (background on the Network here)

The Network founders, Nat Wei and Paul Twivy, have now taken some first steps towards wider engagement with posts on the Network blog about their personal passion for the project.
read more »

Time for the Big Society Network to start networking

We didn’t hear anything from David Cameron about The Big Society in last night’s TV Leaders’ Debate … which prompted David Barrie to tweet “Has all the #bigsociety stuff been negotiated out?
48hrs ago, it was the new revolution”. Maybe there wasn’t the right question from the studio audience to provide a peg … but things have generally gone quiet since the seminar on March 31, and the centrepiece statements in the Conservative manifesto. There’s been rather more fun from the spoofs. (see also my update below: should the Network stay with the BS brand?)).
After the initial announcements I found people engaged in neighbourhood action and community development rather bemused to find their work so warmly embraced by the Tories. Cautiously welcoming, but pointing out that the real test would be in how far the fully-developed policies take account of the messy realities. You can get so far with Saul Alinsky-style campaigning, and volunteer-led initiatives, but to make long term improvements in services you also need to work with local authorities. We didn’t hear much about that. read more »

More about The Big Society Network

As I wrote the other day, the Big Society Network was launched immediately after the Conservative Big Society seminar … both with speeches from Tory leader David Cameron.

At the seminar Mr Cameron promised “a neighbourhood army” of 5000 professional community organisers “that would give communities the help they need to work together and tackle their problems”. This produced some approving noises from activists and disapproval from right of centre Tory organisations, as I wrote here. The Conservativehome blog has followed up with a challenge to the critics and powerful support for the idea of providing a “voice for the voiceless”. read more »

Launching the Big Society Network

davidcameronwalk
Immediately after the Conservatives presented their vision of the Big Society, David Cameron walked down the road and helped launch the Big Society Network. However, he was at pains to emphasise it was a non-partisan initiative, and he hoped Labour would support the idea if they won the election. read more »