Big Society in a small room

The first Big Society Network event


Last night I was at the first Big Society Network open night. There were over 100 people crammed into a small room at CLG, from organisations such as shared intelligence, envision, networked neighbourhoods; other charities, neighbourhood associations, local government, community regeneration organisations … I could go on.

There was a real buzz in the room – everyone was enthusiastic about the term Big Society and what it could mean. The event broke up into an open space and there were probably about 10-15 different groups debating issues such as how Big Society can link into tackling climate change, diversity and Big Society, and youth and Big Society.

As NCVO policy says,  "The voluntary and community sector has a key role to play in setting the direction and the content of this agenda. – NCVO’s message is that this is an opportunity the sector must grab with both hands."

There are several different elements to the Big Society agenda, with the one that excited the most interest yesterday being ‘how to encourage greater community engagement and participation?’


Several attendees have written up their thoughts of the night, which if you’re interested in this issue, are worth having a look at:

The network spreads from RegenFuture (a blog debating the future regeneration of communities, moderated by New Start magazine)

Young people in the Big Society from Tim Davies

Big Society and Barriers in government from Podnosh (social media for the sector consultants)

People were also tweeting away of course, so if you search for the hashtag #bsnopen on twitter you will find a stream of consciousness insight into the event. (and don't forget you can follow yours truly on Twitter at!)

The real challenge I think is to get this buzz with people who aren't already involved with engagement, participation, or community building.

Many civil society organisations work closely with social groups and therefore are well placed to add their expertise in how to engage them. How can you use what you know about your beneficiaries to shape this agenda? Can you see community feelings emerge?

You may also like to look at NCVO’s pathways to participation project, led by Veronique; and my blog post about last year’s first Big Lunch (which is coming up quickly again).

Finally I leave you with this thought:

Big society is the outcome, localism is the ethos and decentralisation is the mechanism.

Last updated at 15:32 Fri 10/Sep/10.
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I don't know how this will affect the future of infrastructure organisations, we are already seeing a (mini) trend in the North West towards early discussions of mergers and the sub regional organisations who have their act together will be heading towards the future with one eye on the coalition and the other with a Labour Plan B. Local infrastructure in this climate? I simply do not know what to expect - can anyone enlighten me? Will we need to adapt to meet the needs of non profit social care providers as our biggest customers?

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