Friday, 23 July 2010

The missing link in the Big Society

Comment piece requested by www.TotalPolitics.com.

When it comes to realising the dream of the Big Society, nothing strikes fear more in the hearts and minds of young Britain than "National Citizen Service" or, to give it its street title, "doing something for nothing".

The arguments put forward in favour of the National Citizen Service are indeed noble. Civic responsibility; volunteering in the community; cost saving etc. However, Cameron’s weakness in this approach is its lack of militarism to galvanise the disaffected youth into taking part. Those that will heed the call are, likely as not, already volunteering or looking for internships to develop their earning potential – convincing the rest is the challenge.

In a recent journal, social anthropologist Matt Ridley theorises that the major societal changes throughout human history come about as a result of one thing: specialisation. Development of societal behaviours, he theorises, largely only come about through experts demonstrating and teaching others. A recent campaign in the Evening Standard on Britain’s dispossessed population utilised big names to highlight the issue – and has received formal backing for the campaign from the PM himself thus demonstrating the power and necessity of role model endorsement.

The Citizen Service campaign was launched with Michael Caine – are others needed? Only by highlighting these experts can Cameron hope to achieve the desired impact of his Big Society and Citizenship campaign.

Cameron has often been criticised of social nudging from the dispatch box. According to Ridley’s theory, in order to achieve longevity in his quest he must nudge a little harder by planting the idea firmly within the minds of Britain’s young.

And that’s where Michael Gove comes in.

I’m surprised that as of yet the National Citizen Service has not been aligned or linked to in any way to the Department for Education. Why not make it a compulsory unit of study? Citizenship modules are becoming ever more popular in state education, being directly incorporated alongside traditional PSHE lessons. Could this partnership be the missing link between long term successes and media buy in?

Could the missing link be Michael Gove?

If this is the case; then could Gove’s current political radiation be the biggest issue currently facing in the Big Society?

Mario Creatura is a Conservative activist with experience in communications and public relations. He currently works in the higher education sector. Follow him on Twitter: @mariocreatura

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