Posts tagged ‘Big Society’

… the Big Society

“Rather than focusing on how participation can work (or be made to work) for people, [the Big Society debate] has instead focused on how participation can work for government.”

Tim Hughes, Involve

There’s been a lot of discussion about how the public can run local services as part of the Big Society. Libraries are the main focus, but public toilets are creeping into the mix.

It’s presented as an opportunity!

“*cough* we’re going to close your public toilets *cough* but HERE’S THIS GREAT OPPORTUNITY TO RUN A TOILET FOR YOURSELVES!!!!

Yay.

It won’t come as a shock that people are not signing up in their droves to such an idea.

It will also not come as a shock that this is seen as a cover for making cuts: “We can’t afford to run the toilets, and if you really wanted them you’d be offering to run them for us”

Indeed this message is already confused since it’s not the man-on-the-street that the council are asking to take over facilities; it’s the smaller parish council or other legal entities. Whether the parish councils can afford to run public toilets when the district council cannot is a whole other story, though these guys are pretty chipper.

The problem that I have with this whole approach to the Big Society is exactly what the opening quote from the Involve blog hits on – it’s all about how the public can help the government out of a fix, not about how the government can help the public to create the society that they want (and that they want to get involved in).

I like the Big Society.

I like it because of how I’ve chosen to interpret it: as an opportunity to involve the public in the design of public services. Ideas around co-design (or co-participation) or Transformation Design (or service design, there’s a lot of overlapping terminology) have been bubbling away for years and through the Big Society there’s an opportunity to mainstream this approach in order to create people-centred public services.

What does this mean?

I’m making this up a bit so feel free to disagree with me, but here are some thoughts on how to go about it, using public toilets as the obvious example!

Too often in the public sector a policy or strategy is thought up, drawn up, then put out to public consultation in order to tick a box get public approval. The designer’s approach would be to do… the exact opposite.

Keep reading…

February 16, 2011 at 2:49 pm Leave a comment


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