Those interested in building the Big Society must have been watching the behaviour of the public during these bank holidays with great interest. It has not been a normal few weeks. The Royal Wedding majestically rolled along on Friday. The weather has been so fantastic that conspiracy theorists think someone’s tampered with it on purpose. And we’ve had a frankly luxurious number of bank holidays. On top of that, we still have a few bits of Easter egg left, if we look carefully in the foil wrappings.
Has this left the Great British Public more inclined towards community spirit, generous and collaborative behaviour, and chipped away any of our cynicism? Have the street parties helped us become an optimistic nation of joiners-in?
Those who want to understand how the Big Society might operate and develop in practise could take a look at our analysis of how the public spent the day during the Royal Wedding.
We asked over 750 of our intrepid panellists to download a mobile app, designed by Techneos, and send us texts, photos, and update their ‘patriotism index’ and their emotional state at key points during the day. We got back over 1000 responses, with a mixture of qualitative and quantitative evidence – what people were up to, plus their own commentary and images. Crucially we discovered what the day meant to people emotionally as well as rationally, and what changed and developed in terms of their reactions during the day.
61% of the people completing the task on Friday said in advance that they were interested in the Royal Wedding, 42% had planned to watch it on TV (a third with family and friends and the rest alone), and 7% said they’d be at street parties. The texts we got showed that in the event, a large number of people had got rather more involved, emotionally and practically, than they expected, and some felt a rather unexpected surge of emotion.
“I’m surprised, I started crying when I saw the princes and haven’t really stopped!”
“Really didn’t think I’d be watching but the majesty of it is all so absorbing”
The online approach helped us see how a big event – the wedding – was influential and positive for people, even as they fitted it into their everyday lives and routines. People were celebrating, but at the same time feeding the dogs, playing with the kids, and dipping in and out of the national mood in the way that made sense to them. We could identify the ‘touchpoints’ of the event which were important to them, and the points where they wanted to be left alone.
And from patriotism levels of 5 out of 10 the day before, the average ‘patriotism’ went up to near 7 out of 10 on the day. This suggests that we are not too jaded to get behind a simple, positive celebration, and that there is nothing inherently unworkable about a sense of national community.
This is, potentially, good news for the Big Society - or for anyone seeking to launch large and inclusive projects. The challenge now is to find other events which can get the tone right in the same way, and to capitalise on our post-wedding bounce. And ideally, before it starts raining…