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The Queen's Speech and a plethora of bills show that
the coalition government is wasting no time in getting down to
business. As expected the Big Society idea of power to the people
is a recurrent theme, with the Decentralisation and Localism Bill
giving residents the power to instigate local referendums, and the
magnificently named Freedom (Great Repeal) Bill aiming to roll back
Whilst a vocal few will always respond to
opportunities to participate, many people, indeed a vast majority,
will probably not. That's not surprising when you consider the
shift we want people to make in their attitudes - from a focus on
the individual that has been growing for decades to one of a focus
on the wider community. So as well as ensuring that those without
the skills to take a role in decision-making receive the support
required to allow their involvement (see my
last blog entry), how else can we excite people's imagination
and passion? How can we help people to feel that sense of ownership
over their whole neighbourhood, not just their own back garden?
In our experience the key often lies in the local
environment. It's a powerful vehicle for motivating people to act
together in the interests of the wider community. Scrappy, tatty
pockets of land - everybody notices them, everybody thinks they're
a waste of a space. Lots of people are willing to get involved to
make them better. If we can learn from this and engage people on an
issue about which they feel strongly all our experience tells us
that we can direct their motivation into making other changes in
their lives and neighbourhoods. And if people start to gain an
appreciation of the value of their place in and contribution to
their community, then we'll really start changing places, changing