Monday 21 March 2011

Growing the Big Society rather than designing it

In the recent drive to create the Big Society there is a risk that we convince ourselves that this is an entirely new concept and so denigrate the excellent work of people who have worked tirelessly to deliver a range of public services voluntarily.

Take the Lakes area. If you crash on the M6 the public sector will attend, get you sorted and off to hospital if needsbe

But fall up Helvellyn, or get stuck cragfast on Sharpe Edge and look who gets you out. The Mountain Rescue Teams of Cumbria will be called out, trained skilled and experienced dedicated crew will work with local people and local police and ambulance to help you.

Their involvement in the rescue is essential.

They are volunteers yet provide an essential service blending with other public sector services and fully integrated. Outstanding.

Then look at the scores of volunteers supporting the construction of paths, clearing waste and keeping the Lakes safe. They are linked to local business and emergency agencies providing support to those visiting and living in this part of the UK.

Helping to make this work, huge doses of goodwill and a ruthless determination to keep the place going whatever the weather whatever the conditions.

We can learn a great deal from this integrated approach proving support to a leisure economy and working with locals and visitors alike.

The Lakes is not unique within the UK, and we should recognise and appreciate the Big Society that already exists before we adopt its principles elsewhere or before we add the other aspects of the new Big Society
We cannot afford to lose any of that goodwill, expertise or commitment by underestimating the huge value they provide.

So Big Society, visit, listen, learn and then borrow with pride.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I firmly believe that volunteers are a hugely important part of community life, my only fear is that the 'volunteer' may become a thing of the past.
    For example my scout group (of which i am a leader of 40 Explorers 14-18 years old) has about 200 young people aged 6 - 18 year olds. This year we are due to lose the whole of the executive team who are all in their 70's, we have tried everything to get people involved and yet even with the threat of folding no one wants to get involved.
    I hope for the sake of the country the volunteers grow as the voluntary sector plays a huge part in bolstering the depleting public sector!

  3. I believe the BIG SOCIETY has always been there but always underestimated. Its not a new idea its just building on an old one. They have just never been recognised before and probably thinking. We do this already what's new? For example you only have to look at Residents Associations, Parish Councils, Wildlife Partnerships. Nothing new just not recognised for the hard work they do voluntarily on behalf of the rest of us.


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