What the public think of the 'Big Society': Mass Observers' views on individual and community capacity for civic engagement

Document type
Working Paper
Lindsey, Rose; Bulloch, Sarah L
Third Sector Research Centre
Date of publication
1 March 2013
Working paper; 95
Social Policy, Community Development and Regeneration
Social welfare
Material type

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The Coalition government's policies envisage that more social need can be met through community initiative, relying on voluntary effort. The Government's 'Big Society' policies give expression to this idea and can be thought of as a framework of initiatives and legislation, such as the 2011 Localism Act, giving neighbourhood groups new rights and powers to act on behalf of their community. The assumption is that individuals have the capacities and willingness to volunteer on behalf of their communities to address community needs.

Based on 100 written responses to a Mass Observation Archive directive commissioned by the Third Sector Research Centre, this paper explores individuals’ awareness of, and feelings around, the concept of ‘Big Society’. People writing for Mass Observation can be thought of as a sample of engaged individuals from different geographic and socio-economic backgrounds. We report on these individuals’ volunteering behaviours, as well as their perceptions of their own, and their community’s capacity for civic engagement. The project’s substantive focus is relevant to Coalition policy and its implications in the context of cut backs in public expenditure.

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