Like many of us who have been organising social enterprise and setting up more collaborative organisations for many years, the Big Society is a bit difficult to take – but it does at least focus minds on the fact that is people, who make a difference and who innovate, not governments. Social innovation flows between people who are open to it. David Miliband has admitted that BS is a good idea and something Labours should recognize, this attracts me to him as as future Labour Leader.The concept remains vague but is clearly based on a long history of community and liberatarian left organising,
The lack of political conversation about whether we have the capability to transform society, move from state services to social enterprise, forge a completely new way of devolving government, is not to say that the ambition of localism is wrong, more that it is naive to assume, as did the former government – that society changes with the magic wand of central government diktat. It doesn’t.
So why is there so little conversation about the how to develop more congenial communities ? The answer lies in the fact that practice is of little interest to policy-makers, because it is the domain of women. Women across the world struggling to work collectively in businesses, community organsisations or on the public sector front-line in almost all personal services. It is women who have value partnership, seek collaboration, make adjustments and think about the common good and yet, still there is no mention in any political statements about the role that women play in making these a reality. Of course this is not the whole truth and that many men are engaged in practice – but a quick audit of who are brokering relationships when not paid, working to find a common solution, go the extra mile when it runs counter to their own promotion prospects, it is women.
If women are not given a determining and leadership role in the extremely difficult job of developing the trust and relationships necessary for social innovation among those experiencing the pain of dramatic cuts – then the Big Society is a non starter.