Steve Moore: Volunteers in tune with notions of community

Sunday 22 May 2011 00:00

The question I am asked most after "What is the Big Society?" is "How do I get involved?" Tomorrow, when the White Paper Giving is published, that question will be a little easier to answer.

Today, like every Sunday, tens of thousands will give up time to their local community; on countless sports grounds, in churches, arts groups and in care homes. As the Prime Minister has repeatedly said, the Big Society existed before the phrase was coined; his ambition is to make it bigger.

While the idea has been debated, something much more interesting, important, and largely unreported, has been developing. A vibrant, burgeoning community of social entrepreneurs has emerged, new social investment funds have been created, and businesses that a decade ago started to take sustainability seriously are now looking at "community" as the new "green". All have been emboldened by the PM making the Big Society central to his Government's mission.

At the Big Society Network, we are championing innovations that enable people to give their time, expertise and money to their communities. Tomorrow, we launch a new programme – Nexters – to support the best social ventures: community sports festivals; micro philanthropic giving to the arts; new ways of giving youngsters access to public space; a global sharing initiative; and many new ways of making it easier to donate to charities. The volunteers are people for whom the Big Society is not contentious but goes with the grain of contemporary trends – economic, cultural and technological.

The key now is to ally deft policy-making to these social forces. As the US writer David Brooks, who visited the UK this week, argued, no government is trying what David Cameron's is – to decentralise power and harness local community energies.

Tomorrow's White Paper suggests the Government understands the non-political forces that informed the idea. They will be rewarded for doing so.

Steve Moore is chief executive of The Big Society Network

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