The Big Society is coming to a community near you. This is our government's will and it seems departments are getting geared up to marry some of their policies with the Big Society concept; a notion that will ideally engage and empower citizens to achieve better community services.
Ever since David Cameron vociferously presented the Big Society as a core element of his governing agenda, many views have been contributed by commentators and particularly so by those involved in the participation sector. The debate about the nature, feasibility and desirability of the Big Society is ongoing and - for the most part - worthwhile following.
To this debate I would like to contribute one question; a question that has occurred in discussions about the Low Carbon Communities Challenge. The challenge for the community groups is to achieve significant carbon reductions in their communities while making efficient use of government funding. So far several groups have achieved encouraging results, mostly limited, however, to the community they represent.
And that is what my question is about: how will the Big Society ensure that there is a match between what community groups regard as 'their community' and the area for which they are expected to deliver public services? Experiences of groups in the Low Carbon Communities Challenge suggest that the 'right' community size is crucial for the successful delivery of their projects. Also, and hardly surprising, the right size may be quite different from one community to another.
Should the Big Society encourage community groups to meet the demand of predetermined areas (a borough, a district, a parish) or should it grow in a bottom-up manner, starting from where community groups are involved in the provision of specific services?
Remco van der Stoep
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A two-year project testing ways to cut emissions at the community level.
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