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Potential Pain Points of “Big Society”

Potential Pain Points of “Big Society”

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Man sitting on a question markThe wave of stories, Tweets and publicity about David Cameron’s speech about “Big Society” made me stop and think – aren’t School Governors already “doing” Big Society?

Setting aside the political arguments for and against….. here’s how David Cameron described it in his speech:

“You can call it liberalism. You can call it empowerment. You can call it freedom. You can call it responsibility. I call it the Big Society. The Big Society is about a huge culture change…where people, in their everyday lives, in their homes, in their neighbourhoods, in their workplace…don’t always turn to officials, local authorities or central government for answers to the problems they face …but instead feel both free and powerful enough to help themselves and their own communities.”

School Governors are the largest volunteer workforce in the UK, willingly giving up their (limited) free time to make a contribution to their school and the local community.  But what are the practical pain points of being a School Governor – and how could these become pain points for Big Society?

 The responsibilities are huge.

It’s all very well saying “don’t always turn to officials” but when something goes wrong (think Health and Safety, think employment law, think CRB) Big Society members will need a reliable, trustworthy, impartial impartial/advice/guidance network.

Sometimes, change is the only constant.

How will information about changes to legislation/guidelines/resources get down to members of the Big Society?  Will it be made freely available?  How will they know about it?  How will they know that they know it?

Training, on the whole, isn’t mandatory – and is usually on weekends or evenings

How will members of the Big Society access high-quality training resources at a time/place/price to suit them?  And who will pay?  Or who will provide it gratis?

There is a huge issue with capacity at a local level, whether School Governors or local councillors, in terms of time, but also knowledge. Resources are needed, and it isn’t just money: it’s skills, abilities and time.

There are always a huge number of vacancies

How will potential members of Big Society know when and where they’re needed? Who’ll do the boring stuff nobody else wants to?

Not everyone is on the internet – or wants to be

I’m not agreeing with this one, but it’s a simple fact of life.  Deal with it.  But if you start printing everything in multiple languages, just stand back and watch the costs rise.  Will internet-only information be cascaded down through Big Society folk?  Who will co-ordinate it? Who will check its legitimacy?

If we could start answering some of these questions, maybe it could help develop the Coalition’s idea of Big Society.


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