Thursday, 2 December 2010

Big Society

Running around Crete looking to recharge
Big Society -  A definition

What is Big society?  I have been looking through some definitions from  a number of organisations  (All links below accessed on 3/12/10).

One taken from an interpretation of the UK Government White paper was that Big Society is:

  1. Social action - the Government fostering a culture of voluntarism and philanthropy.
  2. Public service reform - specifically getting rid of centralised bureaucracy - as relevant for the council as it is for central government.
  3. Community empowerment
(Quoted from Royal Windsor and Berkshire Council)

An opinion of the meaning of Big Society was also found describing it as "Big Society - Compulsory Volunteerism" (Culture Wars )

Reporting an unconference (a new concept to me) involving many groups, seemed to leave the author of the article with a feeling that a definition would be hard to come by  Reflection on Big Society.  The interested parties all had "itches" to scratch.  Also noted was the absence of the traditional doers in society, that have been doing aspects of Big Society before it grew up to have a capital letters. Although the coming together of all in one organisation would appaer to be at odds with the devolved aspiration of Big Society.  Bigger is not necessarily bigger.

So what is Big Society?

At present it would appear to have a collection of  loose aspirations.  It is not something that appears to lend itself to SMART (specific, measurable, agreed upon, realistic and time-based)  thinking.  This used to be fashionable in teaching but stopped receiving mentions a few years ago.

To quote renowned American philanthropist Elbert Hubbard:
"Many people fail in life, not for lack of ability or brains or even courage, but simply because they have never organised their energies around a goal."  SMART targets
Questions I feel I need answered:

  1. What is Big Society going to look like?
  2. How will we know it is there? Do we need to know it is there with big Bright Signs?
  3. How can we measure the translation of ideas into action without spending too much time measuring? How do we know it works?
  4. How much incentive is there for me?

So new question, where are the philanthropists.  Philanthropists not necessarily in monetised terms but possibly in time that can be donated.  Social benefits appear to be aim of Big Society but is it socialism? The danger seems to be that the politicians may own the concept, both from the point of view persuading the public and the fact that in the UK we have an adversarial approach to party politics.

 Even for philanthropists there needs to be a reward. 

Just looking through the organisations promoting Big Society I have found the following links

  Big Society Network

School of Everything

Big civil Society

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