I have come across this video of an event that took place at the RSA a couple of days ago. One of the speakers was a chap (as in ‘frightfully nice chap’) called Jonty Ollif-Cooper. Jonty is a chap who is on the steering group of something called The Big Society Network. He also, apparently, has worked very closely with David Cameron on this whole Big Society Thing. Just the chap then to explain to us what The Big Society is all about.
I have pulled out here the bit from his speech when he does just that. Please watch it. You will learn a lot.
For example, I learned that The Big Society is NOT about volunteers or starting your own school (phew) although actually that is a part of it (hmmm). It is NOT about government or cuts. Instead it is about a culture. And it is about the people already involved but (wait for it) also the people not involved and also supply and demand in public services. It is analogous to the fight against racism and has some especially important components that relate to saying hello to people walking their dogs (or possibly not), about getting annoyed by people, with different cultural values, sitting at the back of the bus listening to music on their mobile phones and then talking about this down the pub or in the Sunday Times Style magazine (excuse any misinterpretation but I became, and remain, lost at this point).
It is also going to have a lot of bad mistakes and rubbish in it. Excellent.
I will say no more, other than to reflect that if I was a bit worried about The Big Society before I watched Jonty, I am now terrified. Watch it and draw your own conclusions. Remember – Jonty writes the speeches of the man who runs the country. Jonty has been working on The Big Society thing since, in his own words, “well before Lehman Brothers collapsed”. And this represents Jonty’s best shot at it.
Also – if anyone (perhaps Jonty himself even) wants to help me understand the bit about dog walkers and the man “with different cultural values” at the back of the bus, please feel free to add a comment.
Jonty’s efforts also need to be seen in the context of the others speakers on this platfrom and you can see all of this here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UKPQqLUITQE. These speakers were Anna Coote of nef and Patrick Butler of the Guardian. They put forward some remarks that were in stark contrast to Jonty’s – the contrast mainly being provided by the fact that they were coherent, thought-through and grounded in some recognisable form of reality and sanity.