The Independent View: The Big Society – what do the people on the ground think?

We at v believe that the idea of a Big Society is a good one. However it needs to be properly resourced.  Not just financially with the Big Society Bank, but with input and ideas from the people on the ground who will make it a reality.

What is really important to all charities and to the vision of the Big Society is having an active and growing base of volunteers.  We support the Big Society in principal but agree that it’s the implementation that needs to be developed.

At v, we are experts at inspiring and mobilising young people to take action.  We have already created over 1 million opportunities for young people to volunteer. Experience tells us that young people care about real live things and real live situations – v recognises this, and as a result has launched Big Society’s Big Mouth.

This project is designed to give young people a voice in the Big Society debate – helping them to decide what it means for them, and how they can take responsibility to create positive change in their communities. We believe that the voices of 16 -25 year olds need to be heard loud and clear about the type of Big Society they want to be part of and help to build.

The creation of v’s Big Society’s Big Mouth project will help facilitate debate, promote concerns of young people to those in power and empower young people to take an active role in their communities. It bridges the gap between young people and the government, amplifying young people’s views and solutions for a bigger, better society.

This campaign is a response to research which found that only 25% of young people have heard of the Big Society and over two thirds (67%) of young people don’t know what the Big Society means for them.

The Big Society’s Big Mouth campaign will develop young leaders and inspire real action as well as conversation.  Through social action projects on the ground, young people will engage with community issues and develop their own solutions to local problems.

Our mission with the Big Society’s Big Mouth campaign is to start a debate that will not only engage with thousands of young people, but that will also identify tangible solutions to the barriers that may be preventing them taking a more active role in their communities. We will then work with young people to take their proposals to government and ensure they influence the development of Big Society and youth policies at both a national and local level.

Big Society’s Big Mouth will give young people the chance to finally have their say on the key issues affecting their lives today.

Terry Ryall is Chief Executive, v

The Independent View‘ is a slot on Lib Dem Voice which allows those from beyond the party to contribute to debates we believe are of interest to LDV’s readers. Please email [email protected] if you are interested in contributing.

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  • neil bradbury 21st Feb '11 - 12:32pm

    If 67% of young people don’t know what the big society means to them, that presumably means that 33% do. Could they possibly be so kind as to tell me? I have yet to see a clear definition of it. Just to recap, it is not Lib Dem policy, is only mentioned twice in the coalition agreement (once in the introduction and once in reference to the Big Society Bank). I would advise colleagues to not get involved in promoting this concept. The concept is so amorphous that it can mean all things to all people. So far it is mainly about volunteering and the voluntary sector, areas Liberals strongly support. But tomorrow it could just as easily mean privatisation of lots of services or cutting back on services. Some of these may be acceptable to us and others not. It is an age old Tory tactic to just present their idea as a common sense non political idea, then use it against you later. BTW, this does not mean I am anti coalition, just anti committing youself to policies before they are developed

  • The Big Society is a Big Con and its primary objective is to replace public services and the welfare state with jobs which pay nothing. A capitalists’ dream solution to Labour costs. All workers should oppose this cynical attempt by the government to exploit people’s altruism and replace public sector jobs with voluntarism. The big society is inimical to the good society. It is inimical to workers’ wages and will destroy the value of the minimum wage. If selfless volunteering for nothing is so popular amongst government circles why were the wealthy paying thousands to get their offspring internships with big city firms at the Tories’ black tie fundraising event? Why weren’t they offered for nothing?

  • After the way the young have been treated under this new government .Don,t expect them to come forward and help as they feel let down .It will be a while before they come back if ever .
    Andrew Edinburgh

  • @ macK
    It may be that Volunteers will have to replace some public servants, It is a fact that even Labour acknowledge that we cannot afford a public sector as big as it has become during the Brown boom.

    What will turn out to be the real tragedy is that local authorities will be the first to cut funding of the voluntary sector , rather than deal with the bloated middle and senior management in their own organisations.

    And young people were treated so well by Labour, – suckered half of them into taking expensive degrees instead of vocational qualifications that lead to real jobs, and priced them out of the housing market by stoking a property bubble = feelgood factor

  • The big society is confusing, because no one actually understands what it is or what it means to each political party… I don’t think Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives have the same conception or objectives regarding “Big society” it means a different thing to each party and no one in those parties seems to want to form a coalition view.

    The latest re-launch by Mr Cameron “Big Society” is just a new cover for responsibility and broken Britain, although Mr Cameron used responsibility and broken families in the latest re-launch.

    I get the impression that Big Society is a miss mash of old with hijacked ideas and anything else that might be considered local responsibility, volunteers taking over or doing projects which were previously funded, I myself cannot understand it, each time I hear an explanation from government it is different.

  • Leviticus18_23 21st Feb '11 - 2:14pm


    More apologies and excuses for the Conservatives. Its just repackaged YTS. With no money.

  • David Allen 21st Feb '11 - 3:03pm

    “We at v believe that the idea of a Big Society is a good one. However it needs to be properly resourced.”

    Translation: We can see that the charities and volunteers who are going to avoid the worst of the cuts will be the ones who really, really toady hard. Now, where’s that brown nose outfit gone?

  • The Big Society is nothing more than privatising everything that’s not nailed down – Cameron says so today in the Telegraph.

    Life just gets more depressing under this Tory government.

  • @simonsez

    “rather than deal with the bloated middle and senior management in their own organisations.”

    Another Tory canard. Apart from a few exceptional examples most people in management in the public sector earn modest salaries. Unlike their bloated, greedy counterparts in the City!

  • The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist. This stuff is getting scary now, Cameron needs to be reigned in.

  • Ed The Snapper 21st Feb '11 - 9:40pm

    The Big Society is just a con trick. It is a means of allowing mass redundancies in the service sector, of undermining minimum wage legislation, of massaging unemployment figures and of undermining equal pay legislation. I am not fooled and I suspect millions of young people will also not be fooled.

  • @ Ed The Snapper

    Agree with your remarks absolutely!

  • Well I think we heard yesterday what the Big Society is. David Cameron has said that EVERY public service will be put out to tender, with the exception of the judiciary and MI5. Some people may view this as a good thing, but once accomplished there will be no going back. This could very well be the end of democracy as we know it. What is the point of voting if there are no services around which policy is drawn up?

  • From my own personal experience of being involved in several voluntary community projects it is not the wealthy who are helping out – far from it (cynically I think they are possibly too busy ‘making money’ to spare time) but it is the ‘ordinar’y people we can rrely on to help out even though many f them and their partners are working full time. Even in the projects which take in the communities from the affluent areas their children may benefit but they don’t offer to help like other parents,

    Cameron perhaps doesn’t realise the Big Society is already out there and working – it’s just the wealthy don’t seem to take part. Many wealthy people appear to spend more time socialising (as they have more disposable income) and building connections than helping out community projects. Perhaps that’s why Mr Cameron believes the ‘Big Society’ doesn’t exist!

  • Unfortunately Val, I suspect that the voluntary sector is a smoke screen for public services to be sold off to the private sector. I say this as someone who has worked in the voluntary sector for 20+ years and now see it crumbling around me.

  • daft ha'p'orth 22nd Feb '11 - 5:03pm

    Big society = lazy cheap junk branding from people who rightly believe that Channel 4 won’t sue.

    1) volunteer work is absolutely nothing new in any way, shape or form.
    2) Cameron hasn’t the faintest what society at large actually gets up to, neither does Clegg, and most likely neither do either of the Millibands. I doubt that Brown, Blair or Mandelson did either.
    3) There’s something truly repellent about all this trademark (TM) nomenclature; The Big(TM) Society, The Big (TM) Bank, The Big(TM) Society’s Big(TM) Mouth, and to Godwin the thread, The Big Lie (die Große Lüge). For gods’ sakes, everybody involved in this, please stop having marketing meetings and get a grip.

    This entire initiative is a cruel game played with vulnerable peoples’ lives. Like everything else that a certain type of person does, it’s being used as an excuse for cosy talking shop activities, wibbly and unrealistic good intentions, lattes all round and salmon-and-watercress sandwiches at luncheon. Still, it will save the rail companies some money; should they ever decide to open a high-speed rail service to Hell, they will discover that the Coalition have already laid the tracks.

  • “Currently, nationally funded Programmes that encourage volunteering, and on which small frontline organisations depend, are coming to an end next month. Local Authorities have to cut spending by 28% in 4 years so that reduces funding from that source. There is wholesale change in the education sector, massive change in the health service, rising inflation, increased taxation, rising unemployment, rising numbers of young people not in education, employment or training, rising costs in Higher Education and fewer incentives and opportunities to keep the young in gainful occupation. I could go on.” …….What I see forming is a perfect storm and I truly hope I’m wrong.”

    Guess the author? Terry Ryall – the author of the above fawning article speaking out on V’s website

    enough said……………………………………………

  • John Fraser 22nd Feb '11 - 9:37pm

    Sorry I did not understand at all in this article what you ACTUALLY intended to do to help young peoples views be taken seriously . ???

    Just out of curiosity are you a volunteer , or a Voluntary Sector paid Professional? And if not a volunteer in your current role do you do so in others ?

  • Terrry Ryall Chief executive of V – see

    “v is an independent charity aiming to inspire a new generation of young volunteers. We do this by funding and supporting voluntary organisations all over England to create inspiring and diverse opportunities”

    I point out only the glaring political ommission from her article for this site compared to her obvious anger on her own organisation’s site about government policy. There seems to be an awful lot of desperate cosying up by organisations desperate not to be seen rocking the boat.

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