Strengthening Civil Society Through Social Media


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At times of financial restraint and when Governments are looking at how civil society can be recruited to deliver on their own agenda then how can we ensure that the many associations that make up civil society can protect their independence. Can social networking help create a network of mutual independence that strengthens the countless groups that are the social glue of our civil society? This is the topic of this presentation.

How do we develop social networking so that groups can have an influence and make a difference? Is it sufficient to just set up a meetup site or a NING site for example and then hope that it will take off into cyberspace and be successful. What more do we need to do to reach wider audiences and particularly vulnerable and marginalized groups that do not always join into existing online communities?

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Strengthening Civil Society Through Social Media

  1. 1. Big Society David Tyler, CEO Community
  2. 2. Big Society Community Matters members • 1250 members, mostly community organisations • >90% manage a community building • Half of buildings owned by LA • 25% under £10K turnover • Average of £80K turnover •
  3. 3. Big Society Community views “To me, the Big Society is already happening. A new label doesn’t change it. Who it’s coming from [the Coalition] might make it lose some credibility because it’s seen as something political. But generally, I’m for it. I mean, it’s just rebranding. But maybe rebranding is good because it makes it an issue again”. (Community Centre Hampshire)
  4. 4. Big Society Community views “It’s something the government created to say they’re putting money into the community when they aren’t. It’s an idea that isn’t happening. I just don’t think they understand it. I haven’t seen anything in terms of investment or strategy. It could be an opportunity if you had a strategy and support. But, even volunteers need support. To me, it’s all image and no content.” (Community Centre Hull)
  5. 5. Big Society Community views “We’re still a little unsure what it would actually mean in practice. We are concerned it will be used as a red herring for government to shift responsibility for services onto the community organisations without providing the necessary support in terms of funding and technical advice.” (Community Centre in Norfolk)
  6. 6. Big Society Community Matters Annual Survey 2011  Members reported unmet need across 19 different services/ activities  Biggest gap in youth provision and arts/cultural activity  Over half reported a net loss of income  Member income dropped by 18% on previous year  Reserves dropped by 29% on previous year  One third of members earn 90% of income  Over 655,000 using services every week  Over 16,000 volunteers and a further 11,000
  7. 7. Big Society Loss of meeting space  Full financial responsibility impacts small group hirers  ATU has helped transfer almost 1000 buildings  ATU has estimated that 5,000-10,000 builds will be disposed of  Right to Bid and CAT  Rationalisation  Stock transfer  Partnership approach  Communities say few buildings can survive without subsidy  Loans appropriate for some
  8. 8. Big Society Loss of grants  Shift from grants to contracts  Contracts are risky and bureaucratic  Tendering process burdensome  Consortia – only real option for many  Right to Challenge  Public services should leave neighbourhoods socially stronger  Sub-contracting must reach neighbourhood groups  Social, environmental and economic value
  9. 9. Big Society Loss of autonomy  Energy and motivation for community action is for independent, autonomous and self-directed  Emphasis on public service delivery  Re-defining social action  Difficult time for arts, sports, recreation and social
  10. 10. Big Society Loss of support  Scaling back of local infrastructure support  Potential loss of Charity Commission support  Digital by Default  Community groups need cheap, ready practical support and legal advice  Echoed by Below the Radar report  Echoed by study for Legal Services Consumer
  11. 11. Giving communities more power David Tyler Community Matters 020 7837 7887