A fifth launch for the Big Society

Posted on 22/05/2011

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David Cameron will launch the Big Society AGAIN tomorrow, according to the Independent.

It’s possible I may have missed another one, but I make this the fifth launch of the Big Society.

Yet, perhaps, positive signs are starting to emerge from the Big Society world.

Almost a year ago, I set out five communications challenges the supporters of the Big Society needed to address (they are obviously ignoring my ‘don’t attempt another relaunch’ plea).

Here’s how are they doing:

1- Ditch the jargon. NOT GOOD. In an otherwise excellent article by Steve Moore in the Independent, one paragraph stands out – [!] indicates jargon:

At the Big Society Network, we are championing innovations [!] that enable people to give their time, expertise and money to their communities. Tomorrow, we launch a new programme [!] – Nexters – to support the best social ventures [!]: community sports festivals; micro philanthropic [!] giving to the arts; new ways of giving youngsters access to public space [!]; a global sharing initiative [!]; and many new ways of making it easier to donate to charities.

One of the first things that takes place in a messaging session is to challenge the experts in the room to explain ‘jargon’ to the person on the bus / in the pub. Start talking in normal language and people will listen.

2 – Simplify the message. PROGRESS. Monday’s launch would suggest the idea that Big Society is just about your local community is winning through, with pilot schemes to be announced. But this is being conflicted with nationally badged activity (Big Society Bank, National Citizen Service and now Nexters), only available in some regions.

3 – Unify your influencers. Still much, much, more work to do here on bringing wider charity groups on board and calm down the carping from the wings. Simply asking them to be quiet (as Nat Wei requested) will not help.

4 – Be clear on the call to action. PROGRESS here. As Steve Moore admits in his article, there is confusion here. And from Monday there will be a more defined call to action (in some areas).

5 – Identify real barriers to take up and break them down. Much has been written on the right about the bureaucratic barriers to volunteering. And it’s welcome that progress is being made on breaking these down. But while the messaging remains confused it will be difficult to properly identify, isolate and target the barriers to take up. The barriers for ‘helping in care homes and hospitals’ (i.e. existing volunteering and replacing redundant workers) and ‘helping transform your local area’ (i.e. new community activity) will be very different.

Perhaps this lack of joined up communications can be explained by one commentator who points out that Steve Hilton, the man behind much of the Big Society, “likes to go from good idea to announcement quickly.”

As has been the case in PR terms from the start; more haste, less speed has been needed by the Big Society.