Appropriately, for a day that will be looking at the concept of community, it was today in 1935 that Bob Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith formed the first ever meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Together with other members, Wilson and Smith developed the group’s Twelve Traditions to help members give up drinking, introduced in 1946. These Traditions included ensuring members remain anonymous in the media, altruistically help other alcoholics and include all who wish to stop drinking. It also recommended that the group guard against governing hierarchies. The first female member joined in 1936 and the first non-Protestant member joined in 1939. The group has had various spin-offs (a concept discussed in our Tuesday session) such as Narcotics Anonymous and what is interesting is how, despite the endless parodying, the movement met with such acceptance from many people and societies who were traditionally hostile to grass-roots movements.
This led me on to thinking about altruism and its role in community. This term was developed from the French Philosopher Auguste Comte who said that individuals had a moral obligagtion to renounce self-interest and live for others. This attracted some criticism included from Mr Nietzche – who’d have thought it – although he eventually conceded that one did have a ‘duty’ to help those weaker than oneself. It is also worth noting the similarities between AA and the Free Masons, despite the fact that the Free Masons thrive on hierarchy. The Free Masons centre is in fact down the road from POPse!, Old Sessions House and in 2009 the Evening Standard exclaimed ‘It takes some doing to unite London’s Marxists with its Freemasons but Islington council has done just that’ in response to the council’s hopes to commercialise (or perhaps ‘Starbucksualise’) Clerkenwell Green. Thankfully, this doesn’t seem to have happened.
So I believe community is nebulous is some ways and can be a strength but can also lead to alienation within the wider community (which helps to explain the parody. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em and if you don’t want to join ’em just take the piss instead.) So come down to POPse! tonight for further discussion of community but be warned – there will be drinking.
Heloise Wood is a freelance journalist, social policy expert, and general all round fabulous POPse! contributor.
A community (at its best) represents a group of people who may vehemently disagree about almost anything yet despite this are still prepared to give opposing viewpoints a fair hearing.
To me, this tension is best represented in the rather old fashioned word of “civility”. While its roots are old, I feel it has increasing relevance today.
The word’s origins lie in the salons of c16/ 17 France- where ideas, insurrection and intrigue ruled. Often run by daring and colourful characters, these beta-test networking sessions used the supposedly genteel concept of civility as a veil for discourse, discussion and debate.
In the absence of social media, salon dwellers realised that the best way of spreading revolutionary ideas was face to face, using polite society gatherings as the vector.
Being civil is a prerequisite for a community, but so is the ability to disagree and argue, without recourse to violence. Civility encompasses both politeness and passion. In essence civility is about the rational and emotional response in one. Good manners, yes but also a robustness, as needed.
Perhaps now as communities across the UK face unprecedented challenges, maybe civility is due a relaunch?
Patrick is a human rights campaigner who thinks civility is a rather good concept.
How is it Thursday already? Slightly jaded, with a 50/50 alcohol + caffeine mix in the bloodstream, POPse! marches on to Day 4. Today is all about Big Society…and small communities. What is it? How do we make it real? What does it mean for the world of social enterprise + charity? How much bunting will it take?
There will also be photos, more blog posts on other themes, the next 20 of the 100 social enterprise truths on Twitter and much, much more….
Follow proceedings here on the website, or drop in and see us!
A few photos from Day 3: Social Investment
It’s the moment the sector’s been waiting for. As anticipated as the launch of the Big Society Bank; as diverse as a School for Social Entrepreneurs cohort; as thought through as a social enterprise business plan….yes, it’s the social enterprise playlist. The soundtrack to your dreams and nightmares.
Side A: Don’t Stop Believin’
Don’t Stop Believin’ – Glee Cast
Keep the Faith – Michael Jackson
Stand and Deliver – Adam and the Ants
Talkin’ About A Revolution – Tracy Chapman
I’m Still Standing – Elton John
Opportunities – Pet Shop Boys
Dynamo of Volition – Jason Mraz
A Rush and a Push and the Land is Ours – The Smiths
Heroes – David Bowie
Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ – Michael Jackson
We’re All In This Together – High School Musical feat. George Osborne
The Times They Are A-Changin – Bob Dylan
The Only Way Is Up – Yazz
Mr Blue Sky – ELO
By The Mark – Gillian Welch
SIDE B: Negative about social enterprise
Another One Bites the Dust – Queen
Hard to Explain – The Strokes
Money For Nothing – Dire Straits
Dead in the Water – David Gray
What’s Going On? – Marvin Gaye
Elusive – Scott Matthews
Under Pressure – Queen & David Bowie
Mess – Ben Folds Five
Fake Empire – The National
Unemployed in Summertime – Emiliana Torrini
Road to Nowhere – Talking Heads
Time to Pretend – MGMT
The Price You Pay – Bruce Springsteen
Stuck In the Middle – Stealers Wheel
Everybody Hurts – REM
Feel free to enjoy these as Spotify playlists here:
A: Positive Social Enterprise Playlist
B: Negative Social Enterprise Playlist
For most of this year, the publication of the Treasury’s Public Service Reform white paper has been horribly imminent.David Cameron even gave a speech raising the curtain on it. But nothing happened. It is still imminent.
Of course we know that, behind the scenes, there are struggles to shift the emphasis from mass privatisation to gentle mutualisation. It is far from clear yet whether the Treasury realise that the tools you need for one – big, industrial strength, shared commissioning – is very different from what you need for the other. We shall see.
But the real problem is that the coalition are only half way through a revolution in service thinking. They have got rid of targets, chucked out the Audit Commission, yet commissioning units get bigger and bigger, the disastrous shared back office systems continue to grow, and McKinsey consultants are still at large in the corridors of Whitehall.. The result? Sclerosis.
Will the white paper address this? It doesn’t seem very hopeful, really. Luckily, POPse is here and I have been able to pull together some urgent advice for the government. There is one way (well, four ways, actually) they can both increase the effectiveness and lower the cost of public services in the long term:
- Make services more flexible
- Build services which also reduce demand
- Co-produce services to reach out and rebuild community.
- Make services human scale
How are they going to do that? Well, you will have to read the POPse report The New Efficiency: Four ways forward to find out…
David Boyle – firstname.lastname@example.org