Introduction: John Popham & Julian Dobson

John Popham welcomed everyone to the event, explaining their reasons for hosting the event: ‘people were saying, those people in London what do they know about what goes on in the North anyway?’. Though we will hear from Steve Moore from the Big Society Network, we are here to explore and shape what the Big Society might mean in the North.

Julian Dobson then addressed the audience, saying, ‘this is what happens when you write a blog – you have to follow it up! and here we are today.’

Politicians may have got hold of this idea of the ‘big society’, he goes on to say, but so many people have been doing this for years. Julian says that it’s so important that we recognise that – let’s move from the theory to the practice.

‘Let’s start this – let’s show people what the Big Society means by doing it. We don’t need to wait around to be told. It’s about real social action – where we are – and about the things we really care about.

‘It’s not about what the Government says centrally or locally. Lots of what we are already doing could have been under threat regardless of which Government came to power from May this year.

‘It is up to us tonight to start setting the agenda for the Big Society in the North’.

‘We need to identify the gaps and then work out what we can do to start filling those gaps. Let’s allow people to use their own voice – and use social media to spread those voices even further. We need a forum that brings together all the different networks already in existence. There are other people that will have fallen through the gaps of these networks so we need to map all these areas and join things up’.

We are living in a different funding climate. Resources we are used to having around will no longer be available – so how do we move forward? Julian talks about the co-op movement. ‘If this is something we think the Government can lead on, and we simply follow – we will be disappointed. We can’t afford to sit and wait for economic recovery. We can’t wait for a Government that may, or may not, be more helpful. We need to find a way now to protect the things we want to protect. To support people who are making things happen, and to start making that happen quickly’.

The outcomes we are seeking from  this meeting today, is action and not just a discussion. Thoughts will be posted on to the Big Society Forum or the Facebook page (see original links in outline blog). Don’t forget the #bsitnorth tag.

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