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Battling on with the big society

People who do not read Third
Sector, or are unlikely to read the full contents of
the Giving White Paper, will be under the impression that yesterday David
Cameron’s slightly ambiguous big society concept was launched yet again.

To name but a few, the Guardian published an article just
before the launch event of the white paper titled ‘David Cameron to relaunch
troubled ‘big society’ project’, while the New Statesman introduced the day
with the story ‘Fourth time lucky for David Cameron’s ‘big society’?’

Yet when I spoke briefly to Nick Hurd, the minister for
civil society, after his speech about the paper, he denied it was another
launch of the policy. He said he saw it as a continuation of something he had
already started to see taking shape.

His anecdotal evidence for this was the fact that, at
numerous events he had attended over recent months, he had met many people
starting up projects that championed the big society concept and would help to
build it.

I can see why this may well be the case. At just one event
yesterday I must have met at least five or six people running new social
enterprises doing really interesting, innovative things.

But for all the great work social enterprises, various
community groups and charities are doing and are striving to do, I worry about
how much progress can really be achieved and sustained unless the wider public
get behind the idea.

Right now my general impression is that most of them still
either do not understand this slightly wishy-washy concept or they already feel
under enough strain over time and money without being preached at by the
government to give more of it away.

It’s a shame, because whether its existence is for political
point-scoring or not, the big society concept is overall a good one. We should
all want to help each other as much as we can.

But I’m beginning to worry that the more giving and
volunteering is associated with a poltical agenda that involves both
championing the third sector and making drastic and often fatal cuts to it, the
more intrinsic, genuine motivations for doing good will begin to ebb away.

  • Randi Weaver | Philanthropy Advisor to Families & Individuals

    Well said, Sophie. I agree with all you have highlighted and in particular share your concern that the more giving of time, money and treasures is associated with the political agenda, the more both new and experienced donors, particularly those donors “of substance”, may think twice. There have always been those significant donors who have traditionally excluded “political causes” and public sector projects from their grant awards. Will we see more or less of that now?