Cultural Playing Field

England Volunteering Development Council meeting by Robin Simpson
March 17, 2011, 4:59 pm
Filed under: meetings | Tags: , , , , ,

On Thursday I will be in London to attend a meeting of the England Volunteering Development Council where we heard from Paul Twivy, the Chief Executive of Your Square Mile – a major Big Society initiative. Paul told us there are 93,000 square miles in the UK but 62 million of us live in 8,000 of these square miles. He asked us to imagine 8,000 thriving local democracies, which would typically be defined by a 15-minutes walk in any direction from your home. Paul called this “a central nervous system for civic society”. Your Square Mile will be a mutual – a “union for citizens” – with the aim of increasing the proportion of citizens involved in civic action by a factor of 10 and achieving a membership of 15 million individuals. Your Square Mile is initially operating in 16 pilot areas across the UK. A workshop is being run in each pilot area in order to generate 5 ideas in each case which can be taken on as projects over the next 6 months. The EVDC meeting was also given an update on the impact of the cuts in public expenditure by Sam Mars from Volunteering England. The budget of the Department for Communities and Local Government has been reduced by 62% and the impact of this has generally been cuts of about 28% to local authority budgets. Some local authorities have still to confirm their budgets to start on 1 April. Volunteering England was involved in developing the Voluntary Sector Cuts website: To date details of 398 cuts have been posted on the website, amounting to almost £65 million. Local authorities have made cuts of up to 66% in voluntary sector budgets. Volunteering England also gave a plug to Volunteers Week which is taking place from 1 – 7 June this year, details at:

Robin Simpson.

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Paul Twivy’s model appears to be a city-centric view of the world where influence is accorded where the greatest population’s lie. It seems typically London-centric too.

His analogy of civic society being like the cell-phone network may be graphic but is quite unhelpful.

In terms of what communities actually need, the analogy of the internet might be better: where networks are formed by individuals in response to the highest need, not their proximity to political power or availability of infrastructure.

The first adopters of the internet were typically isolated communities and communities of interest otherwise separated by distance.

In Paul Twivy’s world is topsey-turvy since those same communities will be the last to be ‘linked up’ by Big Society, whilst those with the fewest access issues will be first.

Comment by Andrew Climo

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