With a new website that enables me to blog directly as one of its functions, I have decided, after a long break, to start blogging again. As any of you who care to look at previous missives, these were largely concerned with changing things for the better with some very practical examples of how this might be done. Crucially using the latent talent of those on the receiving end in our society, enabling them to tackle their own problems. Potential that I personally seen realised again and again in my 35 years in the voluntary sector and described in my first book, “The Real Big Society and my part in it”, the back cover blurb of which is reproduced below:
Is there untapped talent in our society?
Can it be nurtured and harnessed for the benefit of all?
What does history teach us?
Are there good examples today?
Finally, can we create a real big society?
The Big Society was a flagship of the Conservative Party manifesto at the last election and included in the Coalition Agreement. Yet, according to Sir Stephen Bubb, the Head of the Chief Executive of Voluntary Organisations, it is “effectively dead”. This book argues that it need not be and that there is good historical precedent for such a society. It is based on many years experience and a great deal of enjoyment in the voluntary sector helping people to help themselves. The results have been described as demonstrating the “extraordinary talents of ordinary people”.
For those who want to see one of the best examples I know of these untapped talents, I would recommend that that you watch “Grand Designs” on television. Something I no longer do as I have become weary of watching some of the participants. Notably those who have made money and give the impression that, because of that, have little need to take advice from others. They set out to build a mansion, most of which they don’t need, go over budget and time and seem to think that they have done a good job! Some of those featured do, indeed, discover their latent talent which, unfortunately for them, doesn’t seem to extend to financial management. Still, family and friends (or an amenable bank manager) bail them out and they seem to sail on somewhat oblivious to the fact that, with a bit more thought and/or advice, it could all have been done better and without so much hassle. Still, it used to give me a good reason to shout at the television!
The reason I say this is because I feel that’s it represents a microcosm of the country today. However, for a view of a world that could be, I recommend that you go back to “Grand Designs” and watch one of the “Revisited” episodes; in this case, the one featuring Hedgehog Self Build Group in Brighton.
This is a group of people, who were unemployed and homeless, and who built their own sustainable homes. One managed to do it while still bringing up his daughter as a single parent. They used a simple timber framed method of building which did as little damage to the landscape as possible and enabled the builders to extend or alter the houses as their individual circumstances changed. It took them nearly two years to build, during which time they became a small community, something they still are twelve years later. They are also all now in employment in the social sector of the economy where they feel they can “put something back”. Just watch and have your spirits lifted!
More next week.