Big Society and the future for equality

Voice4Change EnglandOne North WestOn 9th February 2012 a mix of BME and other specialist voluntary and community organisations, generic VCOs and public sector organisations gathered at Voice4Change England’s Big Society and Equality event held in partnership with One North West

Big Society event with One North WestSince August 2011, we have been speaking to voluntary and community organisations (VCOs) about the Big Society.  VCOs are at the forefront of transforming the Big Society vision into a reality locally.  But many organisations we have spoken to have identified potential barriers to equality.

We wanted to let delegates know more about the Big Society and the barriers we have found.  We also wanted them to share their ideas and solutions to bust Big Society barriers with representatives from Central Government.

How is Big Society being delivered and what does it mean for equality?

Toby Blume, Urban Forum, gave a national overview of the Big Society and discussed challenges and opportunities.  He outlined programmes particularly relevant to the voluntary and community sector including the Community Organisers; new Community Rights including the Right to Challenge, Right to Bid and Right to Build; and Neighbourhood plans. 

He highlighted that some groups are better placed to take advantage of the opportunities Big Society presents so it is essential to support engagement.  Urban Forum’s research has shown a high level of interest in opportunities but lack of awareness about Big Society.

It is difficult for the voluntary and community sector as many are focused on short term issues of funding but it is crucial to look beyond this as the opportunity to shape the future is now!

Jemma Grieve Combes, Voice4Change England provided an overview of Voice4Change England’s and the Women’s Resource Centre joint project on Big Society and Equality and explored what needs to happen to make the Big Society more equal and whether the Big Society is relevant to equality and equality organisations.


Dan Silver, One North West and Derin Adefajo, Tameside Third Sector Coalition gave a local perspective on the Big Society including the innovative work to create the Tameside Race Equality Framework.

Big Society programmes: in focus

Sheila Battersby and Ian Dodds, Office for Civil Society provided a national level overview of three Big Society programmes: Community First, Community Organisers, and Local Integrated Services.


Delegates then investigated the challenges and opportunities of each programme in small workshop groups.

Community First workshop with Ian Beason, Community Development Foundation

Community Organisers workshop with Jean Bernard and Susan Pomfret, hosted by St Peters Partnerships
Delegates gained an insight into how the Community Organisers’ programme is being delivered locally including recruitment, training and a day in the life of community organisers.  They then explored questions and solutions around trust, accessibility, safety, accountability and the involvement of existing voluntary and community organisations.


Local Integrated Services workshop with David Berry, Tameside Council

The findings from this event will be used to inform  Voice4Change England’s programme of work with the Women’s Resource Centre, commissioned by the Office for Civil Society, to provide advice to Government on the challenges that inequalities present to the Big Society agenda and how to address them; and the opportunities for tackling inequalities that the Big Society agenda offers.