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sxs:lets-codesign-civil-society-21-05-2010 [2017/06/12 10:20] (current)
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 +# Let’s co-design civil society, before government does it for us
 +
 +May 21, 2010
 +
 +I’ve been writing a lot at [Socialreporter](http://​socialreporter.com)
 +about the Big Society plans promoted by the Conservatives,​ and now
 +adopted by the new coalition government - [backstory
 +here](http://​socialreporter.com/?​s=bigsociety). The plans mean doing
 +more with less public funding, with promised opportunities for
 +charities, social entrepreneurs and volunteers, and a role for social
 +technology both in empowerment and service improvements.
 +
 +The Left thinks it is a cynical ploy to mask spending cuts, the Right
 +may hope it is, and others who give it a slightly sceptical welcome need
 +to dive in and make sure it isn’t just designed by the civil servants
 +(however good their intentions). What follows aims to help thinking
 +about how we might all do some designing for civil society.
 +
 +Over the next few weeks we’ll see lots of discussion among national
 +nonprofits organisations and social entrepreneurs about just what the
 +plans mean for them, followed by submissions to the new Minister for
 +Civil Society Nick Hurd. There’s a thoughtful piece
 +[here](http://​www.pacesempowerment.co.uk/​pacesempowerment/​Publications.html)
 +from community development specialists Gabriel Chanan and Colin Miller
 +that sets the bar high.
 +
 +The Big Society Network will undoubtedly be working out how to follow
 +through its proposals for a mutually-owned 15 million-strong
 +organisation to promote and support development. The chair, Nat Wei, is
 +also special adviser to the Minister responsible for Big Society … so it
 +is serious stuff. Expect rapid action. [Background
 +here](http://​socialreporter.com/?​s=%22big+society+network%22).
 +
 +Think tanks will also weigh in. Respublica have already published their
 +blueprint for the Big Society: [document
 +here](http://​www.respublica.org.uk/​articles/​respublica-launches-blueprint-david-cameron%E2%80%99s-big-society),​
 +with [an interview here](http://​socialreporter.com/?​p=872).
 +
 +I think the danger is that those who want to contribute to the ideas
 +believe this should be treated as another old-style consultation
 +exercise. So each interest group will prepare its manifesto or
 +submission, send it to Nick Hurd, ask for meetings, and hope their ideas
 +figure in the final plan.
 +
 +I believe there is instead an opportunity rapidly to embrace the spirit
 +of New Politics (which may not last long) and promote a different
 +approach, perhaps in alliance with the Big Society Network.
 +
 +The task is enormous, from the policy side: how to develop a framework
 +and support for an enormous increase in social action - from for-profit
 +social business to unpaid volunteering - without having big budgets as
 +incentives, when many of those you need to engage are doubtful about the
 +whole thing, and may well have voted against it.
 +
 +It reminds me of times when I’ve worked as a facilitator,​ retained by a
 +public body, to engage residents who (I was told), were apathetic,
 +inactive and probably downright hostile. In fact, when you actually talk
 +to people, they are likely to be passionately concerned … but not
 +necessarily about the council plans as presented. They have their own
 +concerns. They’ve probably been consulted before, and found their views
 +ignored.
 +
 +In that situation what doesn’t work is to deploy a range of
 +participation methods - surveys, focus groups, workshops, online - and
 +just hope to get more response than last time. You have to trust the
 +residents and ask them what processes might interest people … and get
 +the public agency to agree to join in the conversation with real
 +commitment to listen and follow through. You have to co-design the
 +engagement process …. not just consult on the Plan. There have to be
 +boundaries, honesty about what is possible, and concessions … just like
 +forming a new political coalition.
 +
 +A few years back Drew Mackie and I were funded by the Ministry of
 +Justice to develop a co-design game that anyone could use to do this -
 +[it’s available here](http://​usefulgames.co.uk/​engagementgame) - and
 +I’ve [written a lot on engagement
 +processes](http://​www.designingforcivilsociety.org/​engagement/​) on an
 +earlier blog called Designing for Civil Society - although I didn’t come
 +up with that name, [as you can see
 +here](http://​partnerships.typepad.com/​civic/​aboutcivic.html). Just
 +inherited it … maybe it’s worth reviving.
 +
 +The benefit for the power-holding organisation in the new approach is
 +that you can change the nature of the relationship that you have with
 +customers, service users, citizens, activists, volunteers and work out
 +who does what best. It requires a lot of trust … and that only works if
 +power-holders are prepared to relinquish some control. They can’t get
 +half way through and then change the rules … or if they do, there will
 +be big trouble. It’s risky, but then if you are in trouble anyway,
 +what’s to lose?
 +
 +So - for what it is worth - here’s my suggestion to Nick Hurd, Nat Wei
 +and the Network.
 +
 +Develop a framework that provides a set of values for engagement (open,
 +transparent,​ participatory),​ and some clarity about what’s on offer in
 +terms of funding and support. Do some network mapping to find who’s who
 +in the landscape. Then instead of just consulting with these many
 +interests, invite them to become part of government, and to work out
 +how they would engage the people that they work with. Who better to
 +know? And if they can’t or won’t do that, then you may get a good idea
 +of how democratic and engaged they are. It’s in line with [what we have
 +heard](http://​www.thebigsociety.net/?​p=139) from Network chief executive
 +Paul Twivy.
 +
 +Adil Abrar of Sidekick Studios summarised it well in a post [Big Society
 +Means
 +Us](http://​sidekickstudios.net/​blog/​2010/​05/​big-society-means-us/​):​
 +
 +“It’s up to us — social entrepreneurs,​ communities,​ technologists,​
 +public servants, business â€" to make it mean something. As far as I’m
 +concerned, politicians should just set the direction, do the big
 +speeches, and then get out of the way as quickly as they can. I’m not
 +looking for solutions from them. We tried that. It was a bit rubbish"​.
 +
 +As [I wrote on socialreporter](http://​socialreporter.com/?​p=896),​ it’s
 +DIY time.
 +
 +So what next? I hope the Network take an open and participatory approach
 +to their development,​ start networking, and create some spaces to carry
 +conversations through. Next week New Start magazine are hosting a
 +get-together of people, and [Chain Reaction are encouraging
 +groups](http://​www.chain-reaction.org/​index.php?/​chain-reaction/​Stronger_Communities_2010_1/​)
 +to self-organise as well as hosting an event in London. There’ll be lots
 +more.
 +
 +As a small contribution,​ I want to throw in the work on co-design
 +workshop methods … both the engagement game I mentioned about, and our
 +[socialbysocial
 +game](http://​socialbysocial.net/​notes/​Social_by_Social_game) that’s
 +proved very successful. There’s also events like the Transformed by You
 +workshop that Amy Sample Ward and I facilitated with Kent and Medway
 +councils. Amy [explains here](project-spaces-a-format-for) how that
 +model can work. Other facilitators might share their techniques, and
 +this could all add to the participatory design process the Network or
 +others might promote.
 +
 +I think there may be scope for a modest site that brings together some
 +of these techniques, and also aggregates the very distributed
 +discussions about Big Society now taking off.
 +
 +I check this idea out with a few people, and maybe start a group on this
 +site as a first gathering place.
 +
 +What do you think? Should we co-design civil society … or leave it as a
 +consultation process?
  
sxs/lets-codesign-civil-society-21-05-2010.txt · Last modified: 2017/06/12 10:20 (external edit)