Making sense of the Big Society: perspectives from the third sector

The third sector is seen as a key agent of change in the Big Society vision, yet there is precious little evidence of how members of third sector organisations understand and assess the idea, nor of the extent to which they embrace it. This research highlights overwhelming scepticism about the Big Society agenda from third sector practitioners on the ground.

The research highlights a number of competing narratives that provide more compelling responses to the Big Society. Among other things, it was seen as confusing, challenged by the reality of everyday life and a contradiction in the face of public spending cuts. Some saw it as an illegitimate co-option of existing community and voluntary activities.

However, this scepticism was combined with an awareness of potential opportunities, and a need for participants to ‘position’ their organisations and activities in relation to the Big Society.

The paper draws on data from TSRC's Real Times project - a qualitative longitudinal study of third sector organisations.

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Read full paper (pdf, 406KB)

Research contact:

Rob Macmillan