Big Society: the devil is in the detail
Welcome to the inaugural Ipsos MORI Big Society Blog article.
Yesterday George Osborne confirmed that key aspects of the Big Society (community organisers and National Citizen Service pilots) will definitely receive funding. It was clear from his speech at the Conservative party conference that David Cameron is putting his vision of the Big Society at the heart of policy-making; a brave decision given the lukewarm reception it has received to date. This blog will explore reactions to the Big Society, along with providing analysis and insight, based on our qualitative and quantative public opinion data.
The good news is that the public have heard of Big Society, and that there is some support in principle. So far, announcements are perceived to have been too vague to provoke strong reactions. On the other hand, there have been so many detailed policies such as elected police chiefs, free schools, changes to planning etc which, while underpinned by the same principles, are hard to see as one coherent set of ideas. People can quite easily and without contradiction, feel that some aspects are good but that others need more development and our polling suggests this is exactly what they are doing.
Key concerns right now lie in the data Ben Page presented at the RSA fringe event at the Conservative party conference - the data implies that the only communities ready for Big Society are those in least need of it. This point was also brought home forcefully by John Mohan at the NCVO & TSRO Big Society Evidence day last week who pointed to the 8% of people who do the majority of civic actions (49% of volunteer hours, 40 % of charitable giving, and 22% of civic participation).
Combine this with our knowledge that people aren't willing to accept too much variation in public services (no matter how much the idea of local influence appeals in principle) and we end up with a difficult challenge. The decision to focus community organisers in deprived communities should help, but will they be in place quick enough to galvanise the public energy likely to ensue from the cuts? And will they be able to change people from a negative, reactionary response to one of co-producer?
We will watch developments with interest and over coming months will post our main thoughts and observations on this blog. Our ambition is for this to be the go-to site for those seeking data around the Big Society. Many of you will have already seen our slide pack but there is new data emerging all the time and you will see it here first.
We welcome your feedback - please use the comment function to discuss, debate and challenge.