‘The Big Society… yes… but’ group discussion

I sat and listened in on the Yes… But group who were as a majority a little suspicious / concerned about the Big Society concept. As it was a group discussion this is taken from my scribblelive blog so you can get a taste of how the conversation went. If you were in this group and have more to add, please do so!

One lady from a rural area is raising concerns of the examples used about how Big Society might work in rural areas and not just urban areas (the examples are very internet based).

Another person (a journalist) is saying that he is concerned that the drive for the Big Society is very middle/upper class driven… and needs to be driven by the people that are not represented here tonight

Community Activists in Yorkshire were not aware of this event tonight. So who is the ‘we?’ How and where will we share ideas for action?

Community members should be in this room but they are not (my thoughts: it was said at the start that this event was organised at quite short notice – isn’t it good that we have social media! :)

This conversation is not massively helpful, about who isn’t here – what about the people who are? Given the concerns raised… what can we do to ensure those people are not excluded from here on in?

It is up to us to decide what the Big Society is – it is not currently being dictated

From a policy point of view – could we as a group come up with 5 test points as to what is or isn’t big society

5 tests to understand if something is ‘big society’ or not…

If the Big Society is an umbrella term to capture lots of real social action, then where are the people who are really doing it?

It doesn’t mean that they are not going to take part of they’re not here…

Heated discussions about the gap between the ‘actors’ and ‘recipients’ in ‘big society’ initiatives

If technology can create more effective social action then why do we need the big society? Because it is used to convene groups?

We are now talking about free schools as an example. Is it all middle class people who already have access to good schools setting up better schools? @steve4good says not….

We are talking about power going over to the people. Is the quest for the big society a redistribution of power? Or is it the capability of people – and collective action?

If we have a Big Society…. how do we then develop small government or devolved governance – is this not the conversation we should be having?

The  group is given 1 minute to decide what we are going to do about these concerns.

We should carry on the good work that we are already doing; by using the Big Society Brand can we leverage this?

We need to find the arena is which the people who won’t have had this debate, can have this debate.

Next steps: talk to Julian about setting up a BSN in the North, to have a policy discussion / the opportunity to continue this discussion and the concerns raised.

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