The Big Society - What would Shakespeare say?


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There have been hundreds of debates and presentations about the 'big society', David Cameron's big idea for transforming the relationship between government and society. But one question has been missed: what would the Bard have to say about it? This presentation tries to answer that question - and finds that in the end, really it's Our Society.

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The Big Society - What would Shakespeare say?

  1. 1. The Big Societya Shakespearean space odyssey
  2. 2. T BS, or not to BS... o
  3. 3. A comedy of errors?
  4. 4. ‘neither rhyme nor reason...’
  5. 5. ‘at the heart of this debate, in my humble opinion, is ... acollective and very British constitutional negotiation of apartnership for the 21st century that values and combinesnot just the seabed, the bedrock of our public services –to protect the vulnerable – but the coral represented bythe many current and future providers of those servicesthat add variety and innovation and humanity to theirdelivery. Last but not least it is the very fish that feed inthese waters, the local citizen groups that can extend,vivify and shape this landscape in ambitious as well ashumble ways...’Lord Wei, 16 June 2010
  6. 6. some origins and ideas 1986 - ‘big society’ used in Liao Xun’s paper, ‘Marx and Engels’s thoughts on “small government” and current economic reform’ 2010 - Ian Birrell, speechwriter for David Cameron, describes big society as ‘an attempt to connect the civic institutions that lie between the individual and the state’ 2010 Conservative Party conference - Lord Wei talks about ‘a society where you don’t feel small’
  7. 7. Much ado about nothing?
  8. 8. ‘O, what men dare do!What men may do! What men daily do, notknowing what they do!’
  9. 9. from ideas to activity The Big Society Bank - up to £300m to lend to charities and social enterprises (‘a tiny acorn from which it is far from certain a giant oak will grow’ - FT) Community organisers - 500 paid for one year, 4,500 volunteers. T be led by Locality o Big Society Vanguards - Windsor & Maidenhead, Eden, Sutton... Liverpool does the hokey-cokey Public service reform... or privatisation? Localism Bill - new community rights
  10. 10. A midsummer night’s dream?
  11. 11. ‘T show our simple skill, oThat is the true beginning of our end.’
  12. 12. some opportunities? Localism - the opportunity to bring decision- making closer to the people Co-production - the chance to involve users in designing and delivering services A ‘post bureaucratic state’? Necessity as the mother of invention - or desperate times requiring desperate measures?
  13. 13. The tempest?
  14. 14. ‘These our actors, As I foretold you, were all spirits, andAre melted into air, thin air.’
  15. 15. some risks? T down, centrally driven approaches op Funding cuts - £5bn potential losses to voluntary sector and counting; £58.6m logged on at The loss of learning, expertise and key people No apparent interest in equality or social justice - what happens to the marginalised? Lack of buy-in - the more often it’s relaunched, the less people believe in it
  16. 16. Measure for measure?
  17. 17. ‘O, it is excellentto have a giant’s strength; but it is tyrannous to use it like a giant’
  18. 18. restoring the balance 1 Build on community development values 2 Recognise and share learning 3 Create new connections 4 Critique, conversation and collaboration - from Big Society to Our Society 5 Create the mainstream from the margins
  19. 19. All’s well that ends well?
  20. 20. ‘Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie,which we ascribe to heaven.’
  21. 21. reclaiming Our Society How can local communities set an agenda for wellbeing and resilience? How do we combine the power of the personal with the influence of the institutional? How do we move from a world of hierarchies to a community of networks (and a network of communities)? How do we move from a government vision of society to a social vision of government?
  22. 22. more from me... my blog: Living with Rats Twitter: @juliandobson