Our Society

Social action. Honest exchange. Grounded learning.

About Us

Our Society has developed from discussions organised by the Big Society in the North group, in the light of wider developments in the Big Society arena.

The initial core group behind Our Society are (top row, L-R) Julian Dobson (writer and trainer); John Popham (facilitator and social media surgeon); (middle row, L-R) Sophie Ballinger and Emma Lees (both working for community development organisation CDX) and Tanwir Rauf (formerly of CDX, now freelance); (bottom row, L-R) Paul Webster (formerly working for NAVCA now freelance); and David Wilcox (social reporter). We are happy to work with all who are passionate about community action and social change.

Our Society aims to provide a set of connections and tools that can be part of a genuine process of moving power into communities, helping local people and organisations to find ways of achieving social, economic and environmental benefit where they live and among their communities of interest.
We see value in many of the ideas advocated under the Big Society label but believe they need to fit within a wider context of social action. We also see the need for a space to share experiences and concerns outside government, because the nature of social action is often to challenge government.

Our Society aims to provide a space where people can:
  • share their stories and struggles honestly
  • make connections with others who are engaged in related activities
  • learn from others’ experiences
We will also, as and when we are able, host events or contribute to events run by others to promote the idea of Our Society and gather experience and information.

Why us, and why now?
There are a lot of networks, toolkits and people who want to help. Most of them have very specific objectives or advocate a particular means of achieving community benefit. What Our Society can do is begin to network the networks, signposting people to a wide range of tools and options without selling one rather than another. We will maintain constructive relationships with all who are seeking to promote social action and real benefits for communities.

Joining up the dots
Change starts with people who want to make a difference. They might be individual citizens, members of sports clubs or faith groups, local business people or parents whose children attend the same school. The presenting issues that make them active vary widely, from affordable housing to rural broadband to public transport to the lack of activities for young people.
Many people never move beyond these single issues. But they are inevitably connected with other topics of concern. Our Society will help to link people into the bigger picture, helping them to understand what can be achieved and helping them to think through how best to use their time and energy.
The issues that suck power away from citizens are economic (lack of capital, lack of jobs, poverty); social (being ignored, lack of information, lack of influence, isolation), environmental (lack of control over the built environment, global economic and environmental changes, destruction of habitat and neglect of green space).
Many of these overlap and we can begin to enable people to explore these connections and make links with others with shared interests.

What can we do?
  • 1. Inform - by sharing experiences of community action we can help those who are thinking about what they can do where they live.
  • 2. Inspire - provide online and face to face encouragement and help wherever we can.
  • 3. Facilitate - not everybody has the skills or confidence to tell their own stories. Our Society can offer training in social media and writing skills, and help to present and share what citizens are doing to take control of their lives and improve their communities.

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