The #BigSociety Awards

News yesterday that the government has launched the Big Society Awards.

The Awards are designed to

recognise some of the excellent examples of the Big Society in action taking place all around the country.

These awards seem peculiar to me for 5 reasons:

  1. Why do Big Society-type initiatives need central recognition? Surely the recognition of such things happens in local communities, where the initiatives have their benefit?
  2. Awards are usually a means to promote something. As such, the Big Society Awards feel to me to be at least tacit admission that the idea of the Big Society still hasn’t concretely taken hold. To help try and explain in practice what the Big Society is, Cameron is therefore using the Awards to identify exemplars. No bad thing, but (a) he claims it’s all around us, so exemplars should be aplenty, and (b) he’s launched this thing about 71 times already
  3. There’s fairly heavy involvement of the private sector in the Awards (as potential nominees and as eventual panel members handing out the rewards). I haven’t seen such explicit involvement of the private sector in the Big Society narrative before. Has anyone else?
  4. The prize is crap. A certificate from the PM and an invite to a reception? I suspect the only people interested in this are those substantially doing this stuff anyway, who’ll badge their work under whatever language the government of the day is using
  5. There are many unanswered questions: How often will the awards be awarded? What are the criteria? When will the awards stop? Can people apply more than once for different projects? etc. It all feels a bit on-the-hoof, doesn’t it?

Is this just me (a self-confessed cynic) or do others find this a bit weird? Feel free to leave your comments below.


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Man of letters & numbers; also occasionally of action. Husband to NTW. Dad of three. Friendly geek.

3 thoughts on “The #BigSociety Awards”

  1. I had exactly the same thoughts! I’ll still enter my charity (about five times probably)in various categories in the (equally cynical?) hope of getting wider recognition, but I think it’s a bit arbitrary really.
    As you say, if Big Society is all around us (and predates buzzwords and political footballs) than why cherry-pick examples every month?

  2. I’d suggest that part of the rationale is that, when organisations are competing for a prize, they tend to ‘talk up’ the concept behind the prize, or the prize itself.
    No XFactor contestant is going to say in public that they’re a bit ambivalent about the whole Cowell-owned faux-democracy thing.
    This may sound cynical, but in fact it’s a useful way of getting something embedded, not least because, as social beings, we tend to post-rationalise our behaviour. So if enough social entrepreneur types overcome their scepticism to talk up Big Society while they’re competing, then this will become their normal narrative. Perhaps.

  3. Rob, Warren – thanks for taking the time to comment. I think it’s fascinating that it does feel like something approaching a cynical exercise, for something that is supposed to be so positive!

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