RSA Fellowship Social Network

Social Network for RSA Fellows


Big Society

A conversation about how people are interpreting the concept of Big Society and does it need tightening as Matthew Taylor suggests, or might a 'baggy' concept be a strength and help more people get involved?

Members: 191
Latest Activity: Aug 21, 2013

Exploring the idea

There has been *a lot* of discussion on Big Society over the last couple of weeks. An event, a meeting at Downing Street, a rather poorly regarded piece on Newsnight (to view here), Matthew Taylor has been blogging here and here and David Wilcox has been mapping the potential and social reporting here.

What do you think of the potential and the constraints? How does it differ from what many RSA Fellows and Social Innovators are doing already? How could we connect and develop ideas around this?

Discussion Forum

Beyond the Big Society Report 10 Replies

In case you haven't seen the RSA's latest report on Big Society written by the Social Brain team let…Continue

Started by Tessy Britton. Last reply by Jeff Mowatt Jun 12, 2012.

Ad Hoc Enquiries - First Series Starts 3rd April

The first series of the Ad…Continue

Started by Tessy Britton Mar 25, 2012.

Making the Big Society a practical reality

I have spent the past three years trying to develop a website which would actually enable communities to turn what is a great concept, the Big Society into some practical and real action within the…Continue

Started by Paul Ettinger Jan 13, 2012.

Creating capability for young adult leaders in Northern Ireland 2 Replies

I've scribbled a few words about a positive experience of 'bettering society' through voluntary efforts, based on an enjoyable experience in the Share Centre, Co Fermanagh yesterday. It's not…Continue

Started by Denis Stewart. Last reply by Denis Stewart Oct 3, 2011.

Comment Wall

Add a Comment

You need to be a member of Big Society to add comments!

Comment by Jeff Mowatt on November 25, 2010 at 17:10
Breaking news this afternoon is a pledge by UK banks to invest in the Big Society and what I've read indicates that they'll deploy the same strategy as the business plan I described just yesterday, by investing in CDFIs to fund social enterprise startups.
Comment by Jeff Mowatt on November 24, 2010 at 20:29
Tessy, in the context of environment Big Society has become something of an enemy to those campaigning locally against the sale of woodland. In the context of community orgs, however it's seen as what we have to work with as I discovered from a workshop run by South West Acre Networks on Monday

As a social enterprise engaged in international development and participating in the Economics for Ecology conferences, we make the case for an economic model which in itself is sustainable.
Comment by Tessy Britton on November 24, 2010 at 20:09
Marcus - I wish I had been able to see you talk too!

Also in reference to Ben's point It is interesting that if you speak to community-based environmentalists you will find that many of them are pretty pleased about the recession for its limiting effect on consumption. I had the good fortune of meeting Rob Hopkins (Transition) and he pointed to the carbon reduction in Ireland thought to be a result of the economic downturn.

I wonder if an event that brings Marcus's Convergence Network of CRS and perhaps RSA Social Innovation Network together to do some scoping of the potential could be very exciting? I did a workshop on Monday with Bskyb engineers (which I blogged about here) and I am even more enthusiastic than ever about the partnership potential. The more we explore this area I think the more scope there is to add to the sponsorship model.
Comment by Jeff Mowatt on November 24, 2010 at 16:49
Interested to know Marcus, as we've been working along similar lines with people-centered economics which aims to measure progress in human terms.

I was recently going through a business plan from 2004 proposing an initiative to create seed funding for new social enterprise from a profit for purpose approach. When I re-read the paragraph below, I realised that just 6 years later David Cameron had followed from Davos 2009 and then with the concept of a Big Society bank.

“Traditional capitalism is an insufficient economic model allowing monetary outcomes as the bottom line with little regard to social needs. Bottom line must be taken one step further… by at least some companies, past profit, to people. How profits are used is equally as important as creation of profits. Where profits can be brought to bear by willing individuals and companies to social benefit, so much the better. Moreover, this activity must be recognized and supported at government policy level as a badly needed, essential, and entirely legitimate enterprise activity”
Comment by Marcus Jamieson-Pond on November 24, 2010 at 16:37
Hello all

I've been one of the watchers on here for a while and was lucky enough to see Tessy speak at (yet?) another network's meeting last week.

I believe that other network will come to the fore once the BS fad has faded away, as it is based on the principle of coupling social action to values, instincts and humanity, rather than compassionate conservatism. (Won't mention the name, for fear of it looking like an advert, but do get in touch if you would like to know more).

In response to Ben's point, I'm giving a talk to the Professional Marketing Forum on the subject of BS and CSR in about an hour (!) and would reference a quote from my talk. Benjamin Dennehy, a Tory Councillor from Ealing, can be found on the web saying, "Logically, for citizens, businesses and charities to have more of an active role in dealing with society's needs and ills, a push or an incentive is required. The greatest of those pushes being a withdrawal by the state".

I can only assume that Benjamin is referring to the Comprehensive Spending review and I absolutely agree with Ben (below) that the CSR spending cuts will ultimately be the incentive that starts to focus more than middle England on what BS really means in practice.
Comment by Ben Toombs on November 24, 2010 at 13:17
I posted recently on the RSA Projects blog with the possibly controversial idea that rather than the Big Society being a 'fig leaf' for spending cuts, it might be that the spending cuts are what's needed to engage people with the Big Society. Is this being realistic or heretical - what do you think?
Comment by Thomas Neumark Jones on November 17, 2010 at 16:10
I've just written a blog asking people whether arguing that outside bodies can support community groups is always a recipe for intrusive interventions ( would love to hear what fellows think about this
Comment by Adrian Ashton on November 17, 2010 at 9:28
i recently gave a guest lecture at Manchester Metropolitan University on the role of co-operatives delivering public services within the agenda of the Big Society - thought people might be interested to see my thoughts/slides?
Comment by Chris James on November 11, 2010 at 15:00
I am frustrated and inspired in equal measure by every twist and turn that I see through these pages. I think it is very definitely our role as Fellows to debate these things and to find definition and substance in an idea that has been handed at us. I think Tessy’s point on branding is really interesting. Big Society is a brand and by the nature of the things we all do, we form the brand, but in my opinion that is because we need to be that brand now not because it is aspirationally cool.

As the voluntary and community sector is slashed by cuts, threatened by massive redundancies and battered by the perfect storm of demand vs resources the gaps are appearing right now under our feet! And we all know which people in our society risk being swept away.

In the city where I live, a Family Intervention project has just posted its latest figures; it reports to be working with 48 adults and 107 children in poverty, 70% of the families have recent involvement in social care, 50% of the children are known to the Youth Offending Team, 50% of the families are living under the influence of substance misuse and 55% have one or more family members with mental health problems. Despite this dynamic, voluntary sector supported, multi-agency project enabling the generations of these families to literally turn their lives around, the project is now considered to be under threat. I couldn’t even begin to put a sum on the hundreds of thousands of pounds in social capital that this project alone will have saved the country. And if projects like this disappear, where does the line get drawn? Usually on people’s door step or even at the end of their nose!

In the city we are blessed with Local Authority officers who value the 3rd sector and and the impact we can have with our person centred Early Intervention initiatives; however at the same time they have been forced to scrap the Early Intervention funds which many small outfits depend on. Whilst the private sector turns round to the opportunities and the Social Entrepreneurs get busy with putting the vision into motion, the cracks are here right now and the impact will be felt for years to come as the children become young people and the stakes get ever higher.

My problem is not about willingness to change (like many other people in this network I feel light on my feet), it’s more about responsibility. Whilst I think that personal responsibility is absolutely critical to society, education and citizenship I’m also dismayed by the lack of responsibility in the act of pushing over the pile and handing us a T-shirt.
Comment by Jane Mason on November 2, 2010 at 13:28
For anyone who was at the London network gathering yesterday (and for those of you who were not!) here is the link to the open letter to Lord Wei, written in response to his response upon receiving a loaf of bread!

Members (189)


Review of RSA Fellowship nings, social networks

Recently the RSAde Group reviewed and consolidated various social networks.  Each RSA region now has a dedicated space with an aim of improving communication and reducing fragmentation. 

If you would like further information on these changes please contact the RSAde team via the Digital Engagement group on this network. 

RSA Events

Britain’s Moral Crisis, and How We Can Fix It

Leading political philosopher David Marquand argues that money, greed and selfishness have taken over our society. Can our moral economy be fixed?

The Self is Not an Illusion

Is there anything more to the self than brain cells and processes? Mary Midgley, one of Britain’s most respected moral philosophers, and writer and comedian Rob Newman discuss the implications of the scientific materialism that equates self with brain.

Where Do Values Come From?

Author and broadcaster Kenan Malik travels from Homer's Greece to Mao's China, from ancient India to modern America, to find out what the history of moral thought tells us about the nature of morality.


Guide to RSA online communities

Created by Matthew Kálmán Mezey Dec 6, 2011 at 11:03am. Last updated by Matthew Kálmán Mezey Oct 18, 2013.

Apply for Fellowship today!

Created by Gurmeet Singh Feb 24, 2012 at 2:07pm. Last updated by Gurmeet Singh Feb 24, 2012.

Other social media guides

Created by Matthew Kálmán Mezey Nov 19, 2011 at 9:23pm. Last updated by Matthew Kálmán Mezey Dec 6, 2011.

© 2014   Created by RSA Networks.

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service