This morning I attended the Public Administration Select Committee at Westminster.This body is conducting an inquiry into the Big Society and it’s the first time I’ve attended in person.
Today they were hearing from ‘Think Tanks’ and the Cabinet Office. There were four 30-something witnesses with seven slightly older MP’s listening and asking questions – all were white, well educated men. Umm, where was the diversity?
As a voluntary sector CEO delivering the Big Society on a daily basis and, as you know, a casualty of spending cuts, I was surprised not to hear a debate about how the Big Society could work – but instead there was a lengthy debate on different theories and how they might be put into practice or how they had failed or might succeed – localism, mutualism, pluralism, blah blahism.
I came away not really feeling that the question ‘What is the Big Society’ got answered. It might have been more helpful to discuss in basic terms what the outputs and outcomes are going to be or quite simply what will success look like and how can we measure it – at least to those of us who have ever planned a project or written a funding application.
But that wasn’t what really made me leave Westminster depressed – it goes back to my first point about diversity. We had the young pretenders theorising to the men in power - I wonder if we might have heard a very different debate with a more diverse group involved?