I have been asked to discuss Big Society today at Ajankohtainen Kakkonen. Here is what I thought I’d say.

The background to the discussion will come from Nora Kajantie’s report on Big Society. I look forward to seeing what she will be presenting. A few years back she did a very good news piece on a locally owned and governed elderly home, a great example of social enterprise.

As most of the readers know the Big Society is David Cameron’s initiative that he and his team built for elections. Since they won the Premiership it has been turned into a programme of actions. The idea behind the Big Society is manifold, at the core however is the devolvement of power from Central government to local communities. The purpose is to empower local communities to take more ownership of their services and activities, resulting in better designed services locally and an added sense of responsibility on individual and community level. Hence, Big Society as opposed to Big State.

At the core of Big Society there are a number of things:  Social Enterprise  – the idea of locally owned businesses that use profits to develop better services or re-invest them to community rather than distribute them to shareholders. This relates to what the government calls ‘opening up public services’. Above, I mentioned the community empowerment where neighbourhoods and local councils will have much bigger say in organising services and building their communities. There are  initiatives in voluntary sector titled ‘social action’ where the government encourages people to volunteer for public activities.

Some critics have pointed out that the Big Society is not bringing much new but merely repackaging what is already happening on the ground. This is partially true, in my opinion, for instance one the of the very core initiatives – the social enterprise – has existed in Britain for a long time. The idea of empowering local over central government is not particularly new either. However, and in all fairness, Cameron’s team has pulled the Big Society together and connected the dots in ways that other politicians haven’t.

What can Finland possibly learn from this? Quite a few things I think. The most important is the idea that the central government trusts communities and individuals more with decision making powers and resources. I think that we Finns could be better at this. Could we put power in customer’s hands in social and health services? Perhaps, the role of a health or social care worker should be the role of an advisor and a partner or a coach, rather than one that dictates what is good for us. Second, the role of social enterprises should really be investigated and the discussion about who really delivers our public services should be opened up on the basis of values. For example, should we discuss the principle that our services should be delivered by an organisation that best reflects the values of the welfare state? Perhaps. Third, I think we could be more transparent and more clearly accountable about our publicly collected data, about salaries, ownership and decisions and recommendations. These three ideas could also make the Finnish society bigger, should we really want it.

Cabinet Office’s pages on Big Society:



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Posted on April 18th, 2012 Report abuse

I’d really like to see American ctonent providers thinking on a global scale. For example, I now watch the Daily Show and Colbert Report every weeknight, but I need to use Hotspot Shield to mask my IP. What if they just opened them up to everyone and think creatively with the force fed advertising part. It’s not like such a show would ever be shown here in Finland with a typical 2-6 months delay because they’re so topical and related to today’s or this weeks news.