It may be another word for the kind of national service the countries of Central and Eastern Europe have only recently abandoned, but it seems to me that David Cameron’s “Big Society” idea is missing a basic ingredient for success.
Those who have followed my comments on National Branding in the past will understand where I am coming from on this. I’m all in favour of a self-supporting society and a move away from the nanny state that far too many of us have grown to rely on, but are those who are driving the Big Society initiative seeing it as a step towards Brand Britain or reliant on it? My feeling is that in order to get there you have first to nurture a feeling of belonging among the populous and, judging from the debates on the Big Society that are currently taking place, this just isn’t there and the media are doing their usual best to divide us still further.
I see there are a number of facets to the Big Society. There’s the need for us to stand on our own feet as individuals again, there’s the need to cut the cost of the services and resources that have supported the lazy and over reliant among us and there’s the belief that by focussing on community and encouraging people to participate, society and our nation can begin to realise the many opportunities that a community mindset opens up. However, government is missing far too many opportunities to “big up” British and Brits’ achievements and, as I have said before, this is a key component of any Brand Britain development programme.
If I am reading Dave’s agenda right, I can’t see anybody grabbing and managing this initiative nor can I see what is being done, apart from a lot of talk (which has its place, of course) to get everyone on the same page. If the “Big Society” is, after all just a money-saving scheme, then David Cameron is surely missing the bigger trick? Anyway, ultimately it won’t work, because the people who are supposed to be implementing the programme at local level have neither the skills or experience to make the right judgements or the motivation that a real Brand Britain campaign would provide.
Cameron and the Tories may have come closer than previous governments to getting this kind of campaign right, but we need a whole lot more internal marketing and brand-building to be brought to bear if the Big Society is going to be the really worthwhile initiative I hope and believe was the intention.