Blogging about personal development in a time of austerity is highlighting some powerful contrasts and connections.
On one hand there are young – and not so young – people who are motivated high achievers (like the former Olympian Rebecca Adlington or footballer Robbie Rogers I have recently blogged about) who are confident of their own ability to make choices which allow for self-development.
Their lives and those of youth not (yet) involved in the criminal justice system are seemingly defined by low self- esteem, disengagement with / alienation from society, and perhaps adverse mental health outcomes.
Either cohort could be supported to develop better outcomes for themselves and those their lives touch. The question is who should have the majority interest in providing that support?
Should it be central government policy which highlights the need to resource those people, and which provides such support directly (so young people’s energies are channelled into social rather than anti-social activity)?
Or should local communities come together, to make the most of central government Big Society funds, using their skills to deliver change in the lives of the least fortunate neighbourhoods?
I have led a Community First panel for 12 months and I will be reflecting on my Big Society experience in coming posts. Meanwhile I am aware of the pressures on the potential pool of volunteers for those sort of projects (people with the skills, confidence and desire to help make change happen).
Proposed cutbacks on numbers of civil servants in the Education department seem counterproductive too. After all, they and their peers in other departments are part of the pool of potential volunteers for Big Society activity.
Obviously there are major questions about the best route by which to reduce the fiscal deficit and balance national spending. However there’s a question mark against the wisdom of leaving some under supported people entirely to the operation of volunteerism (where individuals delivering those outcomes may be under pressure to produce high level outcomes while being a little under prepared to so).
Maybe there is work to be done to increase the capacity of the voluntary sector to deliver better quality outcomes. Doing that first may reduce the potential for further drains on health, welfare, education, and criminal justice resources further down the line.
- Her Majesty’s Prison: Aylesbury; Black Mirror – TV review (guardian.co.uk)
- The Big Society is dead, charities tell Cameron (thetimes.co.uk)