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Transition and the Big Society

A Day Spent Reflecting on Transition and the Big Society
Rob Hopkins
Over 40 people came together in Bristol on Wednesday to explore what the government’s Big Society agenda might mean for Transition initiatives.
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The Big Society is founded on 3 key proposals:

radically reforming the public sector (what the state can do for you)
community empowerment (what we can do for ourselves)
philanthropic action (what we can do for others)
The government is proposing to train 5,000 Big Society trainers, but at a recent talk in the South West, those attending were told, following a question about how these trainers will be paid/funded, were told that once trained they would need to find their own funding! The Big Society is intended to introduce, through the forthcoming Localism Bill, 3 core rights:

The Right to Buy
The Right to Bid
The Right to Build
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the group broke into smaller groups for a World Café session which looked at the threats and the opportunities of Transition from 3 perspectives, local, national and personal. The outcomes of those discussions appear in the flipchart sheets photographed (see website)
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After lunch, a ‘mapping’ exercise was conducted, which invited people to position where they were on a continuum between “I think the Big Society is gorgeous and we should embrace it passionately” to, at the other extreme, “it is a foul abomination which we ought to have nothing to do with”. First we mapped this locally, and then nationally. It showed that, in terms of local initiatives, there was a greater appetite to engage than on a national level. From this, people were asked if they had any especially vivid questions that they wanted to then pursue further in a focused discussion. This led to 8 questions which were pored over at 8 different tables. At the end, each table fed back its findings, which I have tried to summarise below.
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My sense was that nationally the thinking was that some kind of input would be useful, but as a stating of what the Big Society ought to be, a telling of a more useful counter-narrative. Locally the sense was the inevitably initiatives would find themselves engaging critically with some aspects of this, but not ‘endorsing’ it as such. For Transition Network, my sense was that the next step might be some kind of Transition take on the Big Society document…. but the one thing that most people agreed on was that something so far-reaching and potentially either constructive or deeply damaging ought not be ignored.

Full article here: http://transitionculture.org/2010/09/30/a-day-spent-reflecting-on-transi...