Monday, 21 February 2011

The Big Society

I had to mention David Cameron's Big Society at some point seeing as I'm blogging about charities. It's had a terrible reception, but I think his idea has some merit. And fortunately someone else agrees with me....

From the "Evening Standard":

www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23924200-its-time-to-drag-our-charities-into-the-21st-century.do

"Like most people, I suspect I can see where David Cameron is coming from with his Big Society idea. He wants us all to be more responsible, to make a contribution, to put something back.

But, unlike most people, I've been at the sharp end. I've sat on trusts and boards, and given up my time, for nothing. I don't honestly know why I do it - my wife poses the same question on a regular basis. Because I feel I should; because I like getting involved; because, in a naive way, I think I can make a positive difference. And my father held various voluntary posts: I suppose some of that rubbed off.

The truth is that while much of it is enjoyable, it is also time-consuming and thankless. At school, you can bust a gut on the Parent-Staff Association, helping put on Quiz Nights and the Summer Fair - and if the questions are too difficult or the food isn't great or the stalls are lacklustre, you are volubly told so. Usually by those parents who don't lift a finger and are quite happy to see their son or daughter use the mini-bus or computer that a small group of parents has worked hard to purchase.

It's that apathy and, in some cases, outright antipathy (those who do give up their time are often labelled "busybodies" and "power hungry" by a society weaned on comedy shows like The Vicar of Dibley and Dad's Army), that Cameron has to break.

One way is to encourage employers to allow their staff to attend meetings and to volunteer. While firms make a song and dance about how charitable they are and how much they believe in corporate social responsibility, the truth is that in boardrooms those three letters CSR are paid lip service. Nobody ever got to the top of a FTSE 100, bank or City law firm because of the amount of non-fee business they undertook."

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