Big Society Agenda

The Big Society is the government agenda which seeks to give more power to individuals and communities and make people less reliant on the state. The five themes intended to deliver this goal are to give communities more powers; to encourage people to take an active role in their communities (see trends in volunteering); to transfer power from central to local government (see localism agenda), to support co-ops, mutuals, charities and social enterprises, and to publish government data (see open data). Given the difficult funding climate the agenda is also being linked by some to cuts in public expenditure.

What are the implications?

  • All government support for the voluntary sector will be linked to furthering this agenda.
  • The voluntary sector is at the heart of public policy and public debate around service provision.
  • Increased emphasis on volunteering (see policies on volunteering), with a Big Society Day to encourage volunteering.
  • Increased opportunities for voluntary sector organisations to bid for contracts to deliver public service (see public service delivery).
  • More government policies that seek to encourage individual giving and social enterprise rather than provide grants for core funding.
  • A community right to buy government assets threatened with closure, and a right to take over the running of statutory services.
  • The Big Society Bank will be set up, encouraging charities to use loan finance.
  • Funding for the training of 5,000 community organisers to support the creation of new neighbourhood groups (see changing nature of community leadership).

Moving Forward

How can you take advantage of the opportunities that the Big Society Agenda offers for voluntary organisations?

  • Voluntary groups are already working in this way. Can you use the increased interest in voluntary action to promote the work of your organisation?
  • What areas of your work would most benefit from a possible influx of volunteers? Could you arrange an event to coincide with the first Big Society day?
  • Can you deliver public services more effectively than public sector organisations - could you make use of the new community right to bid to get your local authority to open up procurement?
  • Are there any community assets under threat in your neighbourhood - could you raise funds to take them over?
  • Does your organisation have the skills to cope with these changes? Do you need to train or recruit new fundraisers or people with experience of public sector procurement?
  • How will you compete with government trained community organisers seeking to raise money to fund their own salary?

Want to know more?

NCVO Policy briefing on Big Society.

Published by: NCVO

Date: 2010

Format: PDF

What is it: A policy briefing from the NCVO outlining the Big Society agenda and the implications for the voluntary sector.

How useful it this: It provides a good summary of the policy documents published first by the Conservative party and subsequently the Coalition Government. It contains some brief background information about the policy, and then explores the key themes as well as giving NCVO's response.

What is the Big Society

Published by: Big Society Network (a charity set up to promote the Big Society independently of government)

Date: 2010

Format: Web

What is it: A short definition of the Big Society

How useful is it? The Big Society Network is very close to the government and is being tasked with building the Big Society. This short document outlines the Big Society from their point of view, including some statistics about participation which highlight the extend of the challenge.

Big Society - the evidence base

Published by: NCVO

Date: 2010

Format: Web

What is it? A collection of web pages put together by the NCVO research team, focussing on the five themes of the Big Society

How useful is it? It explores each theme separately, including statistics from NCVO and others around issues such as participation, the numbers of charities and social enterprises. It provides a useful baseline for the Big Society and suggests ways of measuring the changes. It would provide a useful resource for anyone wanting to prove that their work is "building the Big Society." It also has many links to resources.


Last updated at 15:39 Thu 03/Feb/11.


How will this affect your organisation? Have you considered it during your strategic planning? Can you share any interesting relevant links?

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