A Big Society on the Horizon

Tess Raine asks on the UK Design Council’s LinkedIn group page “How can design and innovation projects, and designers, help deliver the Big Society?” Raine writes that “Nat Wei, who’s delivering the Big Society vision, is looking for examples of the Big Society in action. We think the design industry is already doing plenty to deliver better public services, to support new community relationships and to develop new approaches to tackling health, education, welfare and criminal justice issues.”
In response, I wrote:
There are those of us across the pond who are taking notice of the Big Society initiative particularly those who practice Appreciative Inquiry, AI. Speaking for myself, when I was introduced to AI many years ago, I still recall the example used to illustrate one of the basic tenets of Ai was that of Winston Churchill. In the assets-based framework of Appreciative Inquiry, AI, there is always an affirmative pathway to any objective—i.e., what you look at and look for is what you’ll create more of. The AI pioneer David Cooperrider, in his early writings credits Winston Churchill for having this ability to see the unseen. Cooperrider points out how Winston Churchill appealed to the beleaguered British people in the darkest days of the Second World War:

“In 1940, he awakened in the British a self-concept that had long lay dormant. As Churchill’s biographer, Isaiah Berlin, says, ‘He created a heroic mood and turned the fortunes of the Battle of Britain not by catching the mood of his surroundings but by being impervious to it, as he had been to so many of the passing shades and tones.’ David Cooperrider contends that ‘Churchill’s impact was the result of his towering ability to cognitively dissociate all seeming impossibilities, deficiencies, and imperfections from a given situation, and to see in his people and country that which had fundamental value and strength. His optimism, even in Britain’s darkest moment, came not from a Pollyanna like sense that ‘everything was just fine,’ but from a conviction that was born from what he, like few others, could actually see in his country.’”*

The Big Society, is bold and provocative and for me, is in the vein of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society and FDR’s New Deal. It could mean the whole new beginning on a Big Society that can have a global impact. And the foundation for its success, I believe, is the innovation and creativity that designers and artists can bring to the process. It is indeed something that will have the interest of many going forward. I for one will be following this and other threads with great interest.

Designers are already weighing in about how they can help at http://bit.ly/dD5RAw
and invites others to log into LinkedIn and tell about which design projects folks think Nat Wei should know about?

*James Lord, Mining Possibilities for the Future. See also, What in the World do you want? Lord, J. with McAllister, P.

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