Your Square Mile plans – and a live chat

I’ve just posted this interview about People Powered Change partner Your Square Mile on my personal site. Our Society is today hosting a live chat with YSM MD Jamie Cowen


Six months development work by the Your Square Mile programme came together yesterday with the launch in London of a new website to support local action, new pledges of cross-party support, and plans to create a citizens mutual organisation with millions of members.

You can catch up on the background to Your Square Mile on my earlier post here, including a talk though the site by YSM managing director Jamie Cowen.

Today at 1pm Jamie will engage in a live chat online hosted by Our Society here.

At yesterday’s launch we heard support from both Nick Hurd, Minister for Civil Society, and Tessa Jowell, Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office, and from a couple of the 16 pilots YSM that has been supporting. YSM is a partner in the Big Lottery Fund People Powered Change programme, for whom I am doing some work.

As you can see in the video, I then asked Paul Twivy, founder and chief executive of YSM about their plans for the future. It is a long piece, so I have indicated where specific issues come up. I started by asking Paul how YSM was different from other initiatives, and from the great range of local and national activity in the field.The key point I took away was that YSM will work at a much larger scale than other programmes for local action, and aim to engage millions of people who may care about their communities, but don’t know how to get involved. It will also aim to get over the “why bother” hurdle by showing that involvement, even in small ways, can help create the sort of neighbourhoods that people will want for themselves, their friends and families.

It’s worth listening to Paul’s vision as a whole – I’ve just provided the markers here.

1.00 YSM will aim to bridge the gap between the often separate worlds of national politics and policy, and people’s everyday concerns in their neighbourhoods.

2.00 YSM will be able to bring together a mass of information and provide it succinctly

2.25 The population divides into those who are active in their communities, those committed to a specific cause, others who emotionally want to give more but don’t know how, and a large swathe who don’t see the point. YSM will have offers for all of them. It’s not about do-goodism … its about developing thriving neighbourhoods.

5.30 Next year provides an extraordinary opportunity to engage people through events around the Olympics, Paralympics, and Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Street parties and other activities lead to a rise in community spirit, but that can soon dissipate. YSM will provide means to continue the work. This can be done by inviting people to join YSM, and registering for follow-through activities locally.

6.30 There is currently no single point of information and access to volunteering and other opportunities. YSM can work with others to provide that.

7.20 YSM can help champion the role of the community and voluntary sector. If the government can suddenly find a billion for council tax and bin collections, why not a billion for the sector, which is fragile in the face of cuts.

9.00 This is a big experiment which is trying to work at the local level - where there is most energy – and at the national level. Paul explains that as the mutual gains large numbers of members, it can develop the power both to press on policy and also to enable people in different communities to share their experience and ideas. As YSM gains revenue from the £10 joining fee, it can become independent of funders and their agendas, and also generate surpluses to support local action.

Update: there is a full briefing note about the launch here on the People Powered Change site.

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