Social by Social

A community around using social tech for social impact

Big Society update. Now, what should we talk about?

As I mentioned in an earlier post, we've started a group discussion about the idea of a Big Society Social App Store, and there's now one on social tech in Big Society. Quite a few new people have joined this community expressing an interest in these topics (welcome!) so it seems a good time to provide a general update on Big Society, and see who might like to start some fresh discussions, here or in the groups. Any thoughts?

Below is a piece summarising recent posts at socialreporter.com

Here's a catch-up on the posts I've written over the past few days about Big Society, with a few more thoughts on networking and knowledge ecologies. All posts on the topic are here.
As a reminder, the Big Society idea, launched pre-election by the Conservatives and now a centrepiece of coalition Government policy, is about a smaller state matched by more powers for local communities and encouragement for volunteering, social action, social enterprise and other forms of nonprofits.

The post There is no Big Society Big Plan - but that's no bad thing said there's a lot starting to happen under the Big Society banner, but it is a mistake to see it as an old-style government programme. The idea is that things emerge more organically, without any one Minister - or anyone else - being in charge. Fair enough for something aiming for wide-spread action by many interests, but the problem is that no-one really understands what Big Society stands for, or how to join in. There's no voice, no story, and consequently a lot of rubbishing.
In Since there's no Big Society Big Plan, can we expect Big Process? P... I examined the idea of a Big Process to develop some clear purpose and shared vision, led by Prime Minister David Cameron, but concluded that was unlikely to happen. It's not really feasible in the current political climate, and probably not the sort of thing Downing Street would want to orchestrate anyway.
Networking Big Society - or maybe some knowledge gardening suggested another approach to get the best out of Big Society: build on the wealth of activity already supported by many community and voluntary sector networks, while also adding innovative methods for mass engagement. Help community organisers and anyone engaged in social action make good use of the social technologies now widely available, but under-used by traditional activists.
(I should declare some self-interest here. I'm working part-time with the Big Society Network, and this is the sort of programme of network-weaving I would like to work on ... joining up conversations, helping people make sense of what's going on, brokering new opportunities. While it would be possible simply to write lots about the great projects already underway, it would be counter-productive to try and pull these under a Big Society banner without asking. If people want to add the term Big Society to their project stories, that's up to them - anything else is co-option. Certainly not empowerment).
As I mentioned in the last post, we have a forum to explore social tech and networking here on Social by Social, and that's probably the best place for detail.
So, in summary, what I think that what we should try (and I'll come back to the we) is development of a rich mix of online and offline conversations, stories, wants, offers and inspirations created by those who have been in this field for years, and some fresh voices too.
I don't think it is good enough just to leave it to the existing big networks and organisations, although they have a huge part to play. They will naturally enough look to safeguard their own jobs first, and serve their existing members, particularly as their funding is being cut. The community, voluntary and social enterprise worlds are jungles, and it can be very risky to move from your niche and try and innovate too fast. Some will - bnut I guess most won't.
Nor can Big Society Network achieve the change solely through programmes like Your Square Mile, detailed here, however ambitious. Support will be needed from existing organisations and networks.
How might we proceed? That's for discussion on the forum I that mentioned, but here's some starter ideas.
Develop a core group of people interested in evolving a Big Society ecology - something more like the mesh in this diagram that a top-down network that's really just a mailing list, or a simple joining up what's there already .




Agree some values to underpin activities. I'll promote open, transparent, participatory; standing on the side of newcomers, not just existing friends and members; blending online and offline; where possible co-designing new projects.

Start some collaborative projects: we already have ideas for a Social App Store, and a group developing around the excellent, independent, Big Society in the North are thinking about what it takes to be a 21st century community organiser.

In addition, there's a great opportunity for the Big Society Network, which is currently rethinking its web site, to develop something that would assist in the the joining up, and also showcasing great projects and ideas, where people agree. I'll be talking with others in the team, and report back.

Meanwhile, what's you ideas for joining up, making sense, help people do good stuff?

Update: Toby Blume, on Twitter, suggests adding equality and fairness as Big Society values, which prompted a link to work on Strong Communities, Bigger Society that Community Links did with the Chain Reaction Network.

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A Chronicle of Philanthropy article got my attention today with it's description of a business model as a tool for job creation in the US where the need is at least as great as here..

"Another new tool in philanthropy’s job creation toolbox is the low-profit limited liability company, often called an L3C. Such companies operate like a business with community economic growth representing its bottom line. Instead of a grant to a nonprofit group, the funds can serve as an investment in job creation that for-profit businesses may be too afraid to make. If organized as an L3C, a foundation can then make contributions as part of its grant making. If profitable, the grant is repaid and recycled into a new business enterprise.

"Recognized for their potential in stimulating the economy, L3C's have now been approved in seven states and are being accepted by more community and business leaders as a creative job-creation solution. Robert Lang of Americans for Community Development expects a new L3C in North Carolina to help a furniture manufacturer create 100 new permanent jobs by supporting a facility rehabilitation."

I sigh when I read that, know that's what we've been doing for over a decade now and simply cannot communicate it. It had delivered proof of concept in Russia between 1999 and 2005 with the creation of thousand of small businesses, starting in the city of Tomsk and replicating in other cities.as described in this 2004 interview


2004 was the year that this bottom up community economic development model was introduced to the UK and the social enterprise orthodoxy simply refuse to discuss it.

As we battle to deploy it in Eastern Europe, at the same time I struggle here in the knowledge that there is funding I cannot reach without greater stakeholder engagement. For example in a business hub proposal for BBC Village SOS.

There are opportunities here now with EC funding available for projects that create local economic development Up to 80% matched funding for social enterprise approaches.

Unfortunately few understand what I'm talking about and those that do simply refuse to engage with those putting the theory into practice.
We are working with the social interaction tool called SIS scheme, see www.sis-scheme.com for more information or contact me for further information. as Jeff mention there is EU funding available if the concept is good.

Thanks Kim - looks interesting

 

From first reading it looks as if the main process is a series of workshops to develop cluster groups that can then bid for funding from a major project. Is that right? Is any social tech involved?

Kim Junker said:

We are working with the social interaction tool called SIS scheme, see www.sis-scheme.com for more information or contact me for further information. as Jeff mention there is EU funding available if the concept is good.

You're right the SIS is basically a tool box (frame) to open for all cross activities in a community, it work with four streams; business, private org, public org. and privates which can create clusters in all sorts of the activities decided to benefit the local community - from there you will start see "cross activities" where the streams join across to achieve the goals. The example shown is from a building project as our basic back ground is in this sector, but it covers all aspects of social inter action and engagement from a local community. If you take e.g. the Eco-Towns in UK this should include all aspects (streams) as it is a "new community" being build and the head line for a SIS scheme is "Eco Town". 

 

The way to join is as you show in the diagrams and it works for all the streams. SIS is keeping the track and initiates new streams where appropriate. Quite often a project is standing alone - SIS raises the question of whether other activities could be established/utilised for the good of the community.

 

Being Danish of origin one of the questions I always raise is why there is so relative few are engaged in local activities in UK. In Denmark for sports alone 10% of the population is voluntarily involved in unpaid "jobs" supporting the local community.

 

What I have experienced so far in projects are, that if you nurse the new bottom-up ideas within a frame they will thrive and grow, but if you start a project and later down the line want to engage the local community in the project - you will likely fail to convince a voluntarily inter action with the project.

Hope this clarify some Tech


David Wilcox said:

Thanks Kim - looks interesting

 

From first reading it looks as if the main process is a series of workshops to develop cluster groups that can then bid for funding from a major project. Is that right? Is any social tech involved?

Kim Junker said:

We are working with the social interaction tool called SIS scheme, see www.sis-scheme.com for more information or contact me for further information. as Jeff mention there is EU funding available if the concept is good.

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