When I was very young I remember local parks having park keepers, and you could often even get a drink from a drinking water fountain in them. Then from the late 70’s through the 1980’s one saw a decline in the services provided as local authority cutbacks occurred.
How much did people care about this at the time? Well I recall seeing little volunteering to replace those services that were lost. At the time in the mid 80’s I was elected to a local Council so this was the sort of issue I noticed. I don’t recall anyone sending out a request for volunteers when a service disappeared. My further recollection at the time was that people were more concerned with jobs and living standards.
Is the Government’s Big Society suffering exactly the same problem this time round? In 2009 when the ideas was first mooted, no one could predict we would still be on the edge of recession four years later, with the possibility it could last for a few more years.
Is this the sort of environment where people look outward? When a service goes do they simply just accept it?Are some people again just retreating into the security of their homes, at least happy that house prices are more stable now or in some places rising and sit and watch the 100’s of TV channels now available or perhaps a DVD Box Set or some sort of digital download?
My big fear is that we get back to the era in the late 70’s and early 80’s when there were cuts to services in areas like parks and housing estate communal areas and one didn’t see an upsurge in volunteers, just a perceived decline in those public spaces. Perhaps as an ex-Councillor I notice again that road and pavement repairs do seem to be slower in many places nowadays.
In Values terms is the increased proportion of inner-directed Pioneers in society (probably up by 10-15% of the national population since mid 80’s) enough to see a greater shift in greater community activity to make up for the loss of public services or will we see those values expressed more individually in personal self-discovery? It would seem that civil society capacity and community based human capital is still far too low. Newer ideas such as Asset Based Community Development and Community Resilience may help, but it will take time. In a future blog posting I will cover in more detail some of the issues that need to be addressed and the challenges that will need to be overcome.