Into the Q&A...
First off, how do you get from a list of schemes to something genuinely a 'social movement'? People need to see the benefits - so it needs to be specific enough for people to relate to and see the outcomes for themselves. Is it about geography or communities of interest? It's both, not either/or. We are all connected in different ways.
Hyperlocal websites: surprisingly popular, and powerful in terms of getting things done locally and getting local people involved in their communities. Challenging for Councils, but active and important for local social networking.
If my community isn't around me - it's scattered, because that's how we live our lives these days - then how does Big Society impact on those hyperlocal issues about neighbourhood and street? Why spend money trying to get action on local neighbourhood issues when that's not how people live their lives? Or is it that some communities do live like that and others don't? Geoff's giving a personal and statistical answer! A street where people don't know each other has turned into a street where everyone knows each other, mostly through children and schooling. That might change again, but it has happened entirely independent of Government. There is then quite a lot of evidence that the more you know your neighbours roughly correlates with how happy you are. And your fear of crime likewise, is correlated (inversely) with how many people you recognise locally.
The what's in it for me question... will people get involved only in what they have a particular interest in? It is true that many will get involved in interest groups that will campaign against elements of Government and local government policy.
Interesting question: how much does 'Big Society' go against the concept of many different sub-sets of society? Just who is the Big Society and could it be excluding? Many of the examples were quite small and practical - they go with people's self-interest, rather than being rather grand and over-ambitious. The example with taking over land is a risk that others will feel excluded. It's about nurturing this growth - just as you would nurture economic growth.
A third sector provider telling us about service users reporting that one of the most valued benefits of the services is 'making friends'. Does the label 'Big Society' risk losing sight of the basic premise that we 'have to do things differently' under a lot of big rhetoric? It's about how we do things, not what we do, and we need to caution ourselves against focusing too much on the specific service at the expense of the broader social outcomes.
Just had a show of hands about who is connected to their neighbours: bit over half. Someone adding that volunteering in the wider community is more important to her than the specific neighbours in her block of flats.
Reflections on London: contrasts between areas of mobile community versus those of settled, connected stability. Someone else reflecting on how much time there is in retirement to get involved - from personal experience.
On to a point about complementing public services, not replacing them. Finding a way in is a key issue for people wanting to get involved. Volunteering is at the heart of our public services: school governors, classroom volunteers, the TA, etc. It's changed though, and how do we tap into the capacities and capabilities of a new generation of potential volunteers with a changed public service landscape?
Interesting issue raised about people's gardens becoming unkept and, instead of neighbours offering to help, they complain about them to the Council. When the vol sector support organisation gets involved, finds broken down community relations out of frustration and misunderstanding. A wider issue lies in the tension between how this agenda is all bottom-up, but the history of how we work in the public sector creates (or has the potential to create) a dependency culture. Need to test ourselves every time about whether our actions are enabling or dependency-creating?
A warning being issued about reliance on web technologies: not every has access. And how can the private sector get involved? One way: all big firms have employee volunteering schemes, how do you tap into those? The firms say they are often not asked much by public sector to tap into those volunteering schemes? A challenge for us though as 80% of business in less than 5 employees. Young Foundation work with small businesses to support their engagement in social action.
Well, off in a different direction now. Long-term conditions in the NHS, and people being supported to manage those themselves. Strains family and carer relationships and leading to some people feeling quite angry about their situation. Mobilising a wider network of support beyond the family, and provision of very quick professional support to intervene when things become difficult are both key. The risk, though, is that these are squeezed in the financial climate ahead. Looks like a further discussion between the NHS Barking & Dagenham and Young Foundation is planned.
A whirlwind of final points from the first discussion session: resilience, including some work called 'Warm' by the Young Foundation; social impact bonds again, an excellent opportunity to do a deal in the next 6-9 months.
And a final point? If you want to get communities engaged with each other, get a dog, or a ferret (his personal experience!) or some other pet? It gets people talking!
And a round of applause and huge thanks for Geoff Mulgan for setting us off on our way so well.