In conclusion, Well, as ever with Nesta, the event was well attended, very well looked after and very good presentations by all. My problem, is it seemed that its a credo I just can't see that works. It seemed to be this idea of big society the tories have fostered as an ideology. The whole idea that we improve our 'community' by investing our time and money within the community.
First off, due to my political bias I disagree with this. I'm an old lefty, so sue me.
Secondly, i'm not the only one*. I think that there are five main reasons -
• The main problem facing Britain is the state of the economy - and the Big Society idea seems distant from it. The country faces its biggest spending scaleback in modern times. The speech was a chance to level with voters about why it's necessary - and make them an offer about better times to come after it's over. It didn't grasp the opportunity.
•To some, it's a bit paternalistic. I don't agree with this view, but I know people who do - who think that the Big Society conjures up an image of comfortable types in rural settings helping to run the village fete, and risks sketching a caricature of the Cameron leadership as a bunch of out-of-touch toffs.
•To some, it risks irritating voters. "So you're cutting my services, raising my taxes - and now you want me to run the local school. Get lost - that's the Government's job." This is the response that some Tories I know fear the electorate will give to the Big Society concept. I think the problem's managable, but I see the point.
•It's a bit vague. I suspect that this is intrinsic to the Big Society concept. Lots of good and often little things happening locally are hard for voters to grasp, and for government to package in a big way - unlike, say, selling council houses to their tenants or shares to individuals. Those policies gave people concrete, personal gains - and government clear, hard numbers of winners. The Big Society isn't a retail offer.
•It's not clear what the Government's plan is for helping to make the Big Society happen. I think this is the biggest difficulty. Activists would wear the Big Society more easily if they could see how the Coalition's going to help deliver it. They want to know answers to such questions as: which Department's in charge? How many are involved? What's their collective plan? Will there be a Big Society bill and, if so, why? How much will it cost? How much will it save? How will progress be measured? How will it be presented and sold to voters?*(via above link).
I feel that the panel felt the altruistic nature of there idea's would appeal to others. That trust would become our currency. But do I trust something that is unregulated by offical bodies? (well, if your a tory I suppose you do).
The panel seemed to see this 'big society' idea helping the earth, creating neighbourliness and allowing earning a bit of money.
Well, as far as the earth is concerned lets look at landshare as an example. First off, I assume many people in London would like to garden, but how many Londoners have a garden? Usually (but not always) fairly well off one's. Would a wealthy landowner allow anyone on there land? How do I know there not going to do anything? Fall out with them? How do I gauge I can trust them? I DON'T. If you use a feedback loop like ebay does for positive reviews, we all know you can mark people up (or down) out of spite or because someone asked you. Therefore the feedback loop can be rigged.
Point two, creating neighbourliness. Sorry, I lived in a very small community for years, and peoples 'neighbourliness' is really just gossip. But would it be any different on the internet? Well, I don't think so. Imagine for example the spice example of a town in Wales which is virtually using the time share model. What if you are not part of the timeshare model? Do you think people will see you as part of the community or a pariah? I know my answer.
Point three, allowing earning a bit of money. This whole 'micro-payments' economy is flawed. Whipcar pointed out one young lady who has made £1000 in a year from her. She lives in Notting Hill. Ummm, in London, £1000 is a monthly rent in that area. Also, the collaborative consumption of we 'make a bit' from our spare resources. It feel's our new economic plan in a post-industrialist world, is to become a large car boot sale.
Another problem is the panel felt we all had 'spare capacity' to lend, loan and assist. Ummmmm, I DO THAT IN MY JOB. I put unpaid hours in, I sell where I work what we do and use all capacity there. Those with spare capacity are usually those that can afford to give time, give their drill to a neighbour etc. Most of us don't though.
Finally, not everyone can give to this idea of a collaborative community. Because there disabled. Because they have no access to computers. Because they have no skills. What about them?
Sorry if this sounds a rant (well, it is), but this dressed up, tree hugging torism just doesn't wash. Its too niche, it looks to amateurs to do a professionals job, its unregulated. Heaven help us.