The Big Society in the North

Discussions about turning the idea of the Big Society into reality have been hotting up, with reams written and tweeted about virtually every day. It’s already getting hard to keep up with the volume of ideas and critiques.

So it’s really helpful that the prolific David Wilcox is now one of the Big Society Network’s official bloggers, bringing the skills of social reporting to the table; and if you want to keep up with the discussions, Mamading Ceesay’s Big Society Daily is a must-read, summarising what everyone else is talking about.

But there’s a big difference between talk and action, and the volume of talk about what the Big Society might mean is negligible in comparison with the hoped-for mass movement of mutualism that is the dream of Nat Wei, Phillip Blond and others with the ear of government.

My own concern, which I’ve set out in earlier posts, is that we connect with and learn from the past; and that we use the Big Society as a means of including the most excluded (because if we don’t, then however big it is, it will be small-minded). I’ve also set out some thoughts from a regeneration perspective for New Start magazine, out next week.

I think an important step in turning the Big Society into something meaningful will be to move the discussions out of London and into the north of England, which is likely to be hardest hit by public spending cuts. I’d also like to get some creative idea-generation going, because it’s easy to get bogged down in legitimate complaints or philosophical debate.

I’d like to host an event that starts to plug the Big Society into what people really care about; that offers some positive suggestions about how mutualism can be encouraged and supported, and about how blockages can be removed; and can be recorded in a way that’s useful for participants and non-participants.

I’d like to get people out observing and thinking about their surroundings, as we’ve done successfully in Bradford; and I’d like to get people creatively expressing what they really feel, as we did with the book in a day produced at last week’s Community Land Trusts conference.

We don’t have any money to put this on, but we have enthusiasm and interest. If you’d like to take part, please let me know by commenting her or via Twitter; if you can offer support in kind or in cash to make it happen, please let me know.

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