Funding news

How effective are the Big Society goals? - 18 November 2011

The first audit has been launched and is expected to be published early in 2012.

The Big Society is described by the Cabinet Office as "about helping people to come together to improve their own lives. It’s about putting more power in people’s hands – a massive transfer of power from Whitehall to local communities.’’

A Conservative concept created for their 2010 general election manifesto, the Big Society has now been adopted by the Coalition Government. The concept itself aims to "create a climate that empowers local people and communities, building a big society that will take power away from politicians and give it to people". This agenda has divided opinion strongly, it is uncertain to many people as to whether this is a meaningful policy or meaningless political double-speak.

Think tank Civil Exchange, research organisation Democratic Audit and DHA, a social policy communications group, will be conducting the audit after consulting with government, academics and others about how exactly to gauge the effectiveness or achievements of what has often been criticised as a woolly social policy.

There are three key parts to the Big Society agenda:

  • Community empowerment: giving local councils and neighbourhoods more power to take decisions and shape their area. Our planning reforms lead by DCLG, will replace the old top-down planning system with real power for neighbourhoods to decide the future of their area.
  • Opening up public services: our public service reforms will enable charities, social enterprises, private companies and employee-owned co-operatives to compete to offer people high quality services. The welfare to work programme, lead by the Department for Work and Pensions will enable a wide range of organisations to help get Britain off welfare and into work.
  • Social action: encouraging and enabling people to play a more active part in society. National Citizen Service, Community Organisers and Community First will encourage people to get involved in their communities.

The research, funded by Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, will attempt to establish a ‘baseline’ against which subsequent shifts in behaviour and power can be monitored. The audit will also consider the effectiveness of initiatives by the last Labour government to bring about similar changes.

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For more information about Big Society, see the Cabinet Office website.