Throughout our work as Social Reporters for the Big Lottery Fund, the fund’s Chief Executive, Peter Wanless, has been a source of inspiration, leading by example the quest for new ways of operating, as he explained to me in this video here. Peter is keen to embrace the new world of social media, as his guest post on Third Sector News illustrates. That post is about a brave initiative taken by the Big Lottery Fund to bring together feuding gangs. The part of the post that took my eye however, and which is directly relevant to the work of the Social Reporters initiative, is in the closing paragraph:
I’m under no illusions that our good cause cash is what attracts most people to BIG. However, it’s been fascinating recently how often people have commented positively and publicly about our ability to bring people round a table to generate collective excitement and momentum behind an issue. Our contact book of amazing people from the length and breadth of the UK at street level as well as the corridors of local and national power is an asset we should be generously willing to offer the sector to help address 2012’s most stubborn of social policy issues.
In the short space of time Social Reporters have been working with the Big Lottery Fund, the power that it has, particularly in the new era of public austerity, to bring partners together has been very apparent. And, it cannot be denied that being one of the few bodies with an increasing budget at a time when most budgets have been slashed is a powerful attraction. This was evident at the People-Powered Change workshop we held on the 1st December. And the prospects for BIG being able to use this position of influence to help disseminate concepts such as social reporting and Asset Based Community Development are real causes for optimism in 2012.
Peter’s choice of the words “excitement” and “momentum” are very important here. Social change and community development are exciting concepts with the potential to change lots of people’s lives for the better. And yet, so often, policies and initiatives are couched in project-management speak, and pursued in a way that is stifled by risk aversion. I’d like humbly to offer up my own Celebration 2.0 project as an attempt to gain wider acceptance of the idea that the best way of engaging people is to excite them and encourage them to have fun, rather that exhorting them to make self-sacrifices in worthy causes.
I hope that the work we have done so far in the People-Powered Change initiative will have helped to establish some of the groundwork for BIG’s wider endeavour in brokering relationships between the powerful and the powerless. And we stand ready to take this approach to the next stage as and when required.